Navigating the darkness of conflict: Yemen’s struggle 9 years on

ByHisham Allam

Navigating the darkness of conflict: Yemen’s struggle 9 years on

As Yemen enters into the ninth year of a devastating civil war, the humanitarian crisis intensifies, casting a shadow over millions who are in dire need of assistance. The nation is grappling with a multitude of challenges, from the overwhelming number of displaced individuals to the distressing rates of malnutrition among children.

Although a glimmer of hope has emerged with a UN-brokered truce, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains deep rooted. An alarming 18.2 million people of the country’s almost 35 million population still need aid. Despite a marginal decrease in needs compared to 2023, the situation remains far from optimistic.

Internal conflicts and corruption amid excruciating human suffering

Bahia Al-Sakkaf, Director of the PASS Foundation, laments the grim reality unfolding in Yemen. She highlights the escalating human crisis, exacerbated by internal and external conflicts, and the exploitation of humanitarian issues by warring factions, deeming this to be a flagrant war crime that warrants accountability.

She describes the dire conditions that are pervasive across Yemen, irrespective of the controlling authority, noting that “alarming trends of soaring unemployment, currency devaluation, and governmental corruption plague the nation, amplifying the humanitarian plight”.

Al-Sakkaf points out the disproportionate impact of Yemen’s ongoing conflict on vulnerable and marginalized communities, especially women, children, and the disabled.

“Violence faced by women, including instances of domestic abuse and imprisonment, reflects an intolerable reality”.

Deprivation, displacement, hunger

Zaid Alalaya, a Public Information Officer at the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, indicated to DevelopmentAid that the years-long conflict, economic deterioration, and disrupted infrastructure are perpetuating vulnerabilities, leaving millions susceptible to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera as well as climate-related emergencies.

“Displacement remains a pressing issue, with over 4.56 million people displaced since the onset of the conflict in 2015, a majority of whom are women and children. Shockingly, approximately 6.7 million Yemenis endure inadequate shelter conditions, exacerbating their already dire circumstances,” he highlighted.

According to Alalaya, approximately 17.6 million people in Yemen are estimated to be severely food insecure. Additionally, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification states that around 6 million individuals are anticipated to experience emergency levels of food insecurity, categorized as Phase 4.

Millions are deprived of basic necessities such as water, healthcare, and education. A staggering 12.4 million people lack sufficient access to safe water resources, while over 4.5 million school-age children are being deprived of education. Moreover, an alarming 17.8 million Yemenis require health assistance, with significant challenges faced by women accessing reproductive health services, particularly in rural and frontline areas.

Yemen’s vulnerability to climate change is further intensifying its humanitarian crisis. Cyclones, droughts, and flooding continue to drive displacement, compounding the challenges faced by an already beleaguered population. Furthermore, the country is grappling with the pervasive threat of landmines and the explosive remnants of war which contribute to the number of casualties and hinder humanitarian operations.

Humanitarian response plan to raise billions in aid for Yemen

In response to these daunting challenges, the UN, through the Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, has launched a Humanitarian Response Plan for 2024, aiming to raise US$2.7 billion to address Yemen’s humanitarian issues. The plan targets 11.2 million vulnerable individuals across all 333 districts of Yemen, with over 200 organizations, predominantly national NGOs, poised to participate in the response efforts.

However, access remains a significant obstacle for relief agencies with conflict-related barriers hampering their ability to reach those in need. Alalaya stresses that ending the conflict is imperative and providing the humanitarian assistance required in Yemen is paramount. He emphasizes the need for collaboration between development partners to support sustainable solutions together with humanitarian efforts.

“Through sustained funding, collaboration, and a commitment to long-term solutions, the international community can strive towards a brighter future for the people of Yemen,” he said.

Allocation of financial aid “lacks transparency”

Reflecting on the last nine years, Al-Sakkaf dismissed rumors of substantial Arab investments in developmental projects but demands “transparency and accountability for the allocation of funds” which are still significant in amount, albeit decreasing. However, she highlights “the futility of anticipating sustainable development” amidst persistent conflict and geopolitical turmoil.

“Without a stable, functioning government, interventions remain limited in scope and efficacy, hindering the country’s ability to address its pressing challenges,” Al-Sakkaf commented.

In 2023, the United Nations rallied to raise funds for Yemen, amassing US$1.2 billion, but this fell significantly short of its ambitious target of US$4.3 billion. Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, stepped up by announcing a substantial contribution of US$444 million towards Yemen’s humanitarian aid. This generous donation brought the total U.S. aid given to Yemen since the onset of the war to US$5.4 billion.

Despite these commendable efforts, the financial support for Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has seen a worrying decline over the past five years. An analysis by Save the Children revealed a steep drop in funding for the HRP from US$3.64 billion in 2019 to a mere US$1.38 billion in 2023. This stark decrease highlights the pressing need for a more robust global commitment to alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.