After many years of armed conflict, Yemen has emerged as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Roughly three-quarters of its population of approximately 31 million need humanitarian assistance and protection. Some 4.5 million people are estimated to have been displaced, while more than 230,000 people have died—11,000 of them children.
The country is battling hunger, malnutrition and poverty. About 80% of the Yemeni population live below the poverty line, at least 17 million people need food assistance and more than 2 million Yemeni children under 5 are acutely malnourished. And now, with the war in Ukraine disrupting the global food supply chain and pushing up food prices, families face an even greater risk of food insecurity.
Increasingly extreme weather has meant that Yemen also is witnessing massive flooding. Flash floods since June 2022 have affected 18 of the country’s 23 governorates, damaging roads, schools, health facilities and water sources.
children and pregnant or nursing women are acutely malnourished
Every ten minutes,
a child under 5 in Yemen dies of preventable causes
More than 50%
of Yemen’s population lacks clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, increasing the risk of infectious diseases
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are hunger and malnutrition major issues in Yemen?
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Historically, it has endured years of weak, often divided, governments that have been unable to provide a secure, politically stable environment or basic social services, such as healthcare, for their people. In addition, Yemen grows little of its own food, relying chiefly on imports. But the cost of this food is also simply out of reach for many Yemenis—especially in rural areas, where bread and rice are staples, supplemented occasionally with vegetables and very rarely with meat. Even in the best of times, poor roads, clogged ports, little government authority, weak purchasing power and nascent distribution systems combine to make delivering imported food to rural areas a challenge. Furthermore, the war in Ukraine has pushed up food prices globally, and 80% of Yemen’s population lives below the poverty line. This puts families at greater risk of food insecurity.
Why don’t we hear more about Yemen if conditions are so desperate?
Yemen lies at the outer fringes of the Middle East region. It is remote, sharing land borders with only two countries: Saudi Arabia to the north and the Sultanate of Oman to the east. It is accessible by air via just one commercial carrier or by sea from Djibouti. Consequently, Yemen is very hard for journalists to reach, and it is extremely dangerous for them to tell the story of its tragedy. Unlike Syria, where another war has unfolded, few of Yemen’s citizens can afford the journey to safety in Europe or elsewhere in the West. Although Yemen’s population of more than 31 million is larger than Syria’s pre-war figure of 21 million, fewer than 200,000 Yemenis are officially listed as refugees, compared to the 5.5 million Syrian refugees.
Why is Yemen vulnerable to cholera and why have the outbreaks there been so virulent?
Cholera is endemic to Yemen. More than 50% of the population lacks access to proper healthcare, clean water and basic sanitation and hygiene services. The situation worsens during floods when wells and other water sources get contaminated, leaving Yemenis vulnerable to communicable diseases.
The Shadow of Famine
Years of war have driven most of Yemen’s 31-million people deeper into despair, with two-thirds of the country’s 333 administrative districts experiencing “pre-famine” conditions while pockets of catastrophic hunger exist in the remaining third.READ MORE
The armed conflict that began in 2014 has displaced 4.5 million people, and severely disrupted the flow of goods.
Fewer than half of the country’s health facilities still function, and about two-thirds of its people lack access to basic healthcare.
More than 80% of the Yemeni population lives below the poverty line, facing greater risk of food insecurity.
With a staff of 160 people, International Medical Corps manages our response from a main office in the capital, Sana’a, with sub offices in Aden and Ibb. From these three offices, we serve communities directly affected by the war in seven of Yemen’s 23 governorates: Aden, Al Dhale’e, Amanat al Asimah, Ibb, Lahj, Sana’a and Taizz. We also work to strengthen existing institutions, providing them with supplies and training that enable them to continue functioning.
Drawing from our experience responding to armed conflicts and natural disasters in more than 80 countries since 1984, International Medical Corps supports and strengthens local human resources through capacity-building, promoting sustainability and acceptability and providing easier access to communities.
Since 2012, International Medical Corps has supported primary and secondary healthcare facilities in seven governorates in Yemen, supplying them with essential medical commodities and enabling them to remain functional and provide a wide range of services, including maternal and child care, sexual and reproductive healthcare, prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and proper waste management. Our use of mobile medical units gives us the flexibility to provide assistance to those residing in remote locations and unable to reach static services.
International Medical Corps engages community health volunteers (CHVs) to further strengthen response in the community through integrated management of childhood responses and household visits. To curb communicable diseases through behavioural change, these CHVs share information on personal hygiene and environmental waste management.
In a country where food security has been a challenge even in the best of times, International Medical Corps is implementing emergency nutrition and food security programmes to address growing food needs of the Yemeni population.
Years of war, exacerbated by the recent economic crisis, have left one of four Yemeni children malnourished. International Medical Corps runs community-based management of acute malnutrition programmes at the health facility and community levels in hard-to-reach areas through mobile teams. These teams detect and treat acute malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women (PLWs) and malnourished children under 5. We also deliver lifesaving care to severely malnourished children with medical complications in two inpatient centres in Sana’a and Al Dhale’e.
International Medical Corps supports 31 community healthcare facilities in Al Dhale’e, Lahj, Sana’a and Taizz governorates by training health and nutrition workers, and providing essential drugs and nutritional supplies needed for outpatient therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes. These programs ensure that acutely malnourished children receive the best possible outpatient care and appropriate referral services. In addition, we support infant and young-child feeding (IYCF) spaces in 31 health facilities, and train health workers to provide individual counselling to mothers and caregivers on IYCF practices, which is crucial for preventing acute malnutrition among children under 5.
At the community level, International Medical Corps works with community health and nutrition volunteers (CHNVs) to establish mother-support groups, through which mothers and caregivers can share experiences on IYCF and hygiene practices. Our team ensures early detection and referral of acutely malnourished children and PLWs for specialised care. The CHNVs also trace children and nursing mothers who drop out of treatment or who have been referred but fail to show up for treatment. These volunteers change their communities’ understanding of nutrition and hygiene practices as they provide families with critical information about preventing acute malnutrition. On an average, we reach more than 3,900 people with health and nutrition education every month.
We have developed a family strategy to measure the mid-upper arm circumference as a nutrition indicator. This approach involves mothers and caregivers, enabling them to detect malnutrition in their children in the absence of comprehensive nutrition surveys and mass screenings at the community level.
Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
Providing good WASH services is one of the keys to our emergency response in Yemen, where we focus on mitigating the increased risk of diseases caused by reduced access to clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene. In addition to providing safe and clean water and sanitation facilities, we construct and rehabilitate WASH infrastructures, such as latrines, sewage networks and water-supply systems, including motorisation, using solar systems. In addition, we support the local authorities in solid waste management, building local capacity in the management of water and sanitation infrastructures, and in educating the community about basic hygiene promotion practices through community health volunteers. We also work with health facilities to manage healthcare waste by constructing waste zones. Since we started our WASH programme in Yemen in 2012, we have reached more than 2 million people, providing critical access to water, sanitation and hygiene during major cholera outbreaks.
Food Security and Livelihoods
FSL is a core component of International Medical Corps’ programme strategy in Yemen. In addition to providing conventional food assistance linked with sustainable livelihoods, we have a comprehensive programme for food distribution, using vouchers specifically for families affected by malnutrition. Our programme to replace valuable livestock lost in the fighting helps regenerate wealth and strengthen household incomes. Working closely with our health and nutrition teams, our FSL team selects recipients of new livestock based on criteria developed in consultation with the communities. Technical training on business and financial management is also available to support sustainable livelihoods. We have provided more than 3,000 food-insecure households with livestock in Al Dhale’e, Ibb and Taiz governorates to improve household income and nutrition levels, and food baskets via conditional vouchers to 7,000 people in Lahj governorate. Currently, in integration with the nutrition programme, we are supporting more than 5,000 people in Al Dhale’e and Ibb governorates with food assistance to enable them to meet their daily food needs and steer clear of harmful coping mechanisms.
Regular training on health, nutrition, WASH, food security and protection issues is a central component of International Medical Corps’ programming in Yemen, to ensure delivery of quality services in line with recognised standards and protocols. Due to the current humanitarian emergency and the severely weakened government healthcare system, we focus on improving health workers’ knowledge and skills through services offered at the health facilities we support.
Training on health issues includes integrated management of childhood illnesses, expanded immunisation programs, minimum initial service package, reproductive healthcare, prevention and treatment of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, emergency obstetrics and newborn care, and infection prevention and control. Nutrition training focuses on all components of community-based management of acute malnutrition, and IYCF feeding in emergencies. International Medical Corps also trains community-based health and nutrition staff members to deliver WASH messages, along with health and nutrition services, to vulnerable Yemeni communities. These staff workers play an important role in detecting outbreaks of diseases among the population.
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
Our MEAL team in Yemen systematically tracks outputs and outcomes of our programmes and gathers beneficiary feedback for continuous improvement. To this end, we have developed the District Health Information System 2—open-source aggregation, data collection and reporting software that enables International Medical Corps to have access to timely data, minimise errors and make evidence-based decisions related to our programs. We have also developed the Pharmaceutical Information Management System to monitor the last-mile delivery of pharmaceutical commodities. The system captures data or information on interventions, disaggregated by sex, age and deprived groups, including the disabled.
We also use other technical systems, including accountability to affected population and community-based feedback and response mechanism (CBFRM), based on the global International Medical Corps CBFRM framework.
Protection and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention programming remains the most sensitive intervention in Yemen, both because of the extreme cultural sensitivities that surround these issues and because they often occur in areas where armed conflict and critical food shortages force communities to focus on survival. To promote protection mainstreaming across all sectors, International Medical Corps employs staff devoted solely to protection mainstreaming, ensuring that interventions are aligned to all applicable international protection standards in the health, nutrition, WASH and FSL programmes.
Protection mainstreaming efforts within our Yemen mission are conducted in close coordination and communication with the United Nations’ GBV Sub-Cluster and Protection Cluster in the country. We train our programs and MEAL staff on how to include protection in planned activities. We have designed our monitoring tools to capture the key elements of beneficiary protection as set out in the approved guidelines.