Yemen

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Prioritizing People in Need
  • Resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Yemen
  • Persistent fuel shortages undercut humanitarian operations and exacerbate humanitarian needs
  • Humanitarian Coordinator takes stock of needs in Ma’rib and Al Hodeidah
  • Displaced families relocated from schools in Ta’iz Governorate
Yemen Humanitarian Update No. 3, 3 April 2021
Two young internally displaced girls in a UNHCR-supported IDP site in Aden Governorate. Giles Clarke/OCHA.

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Yemen

Situation Report

Key Figures

20.7M
People in Need
12.1M
People in Acute Need
4M
Displaced People

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Contacts

Sajjad Sajid

Head of Office

Tapiwa Gomo

Head of Communication

Yemen

Situation Report
Background

Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan Aims to Avert Famine, Prevent Disease Outbreaks and Protect Civilians

The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) for 2021 was released on 16 March, appealing for US$3.85 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to some 16 million people in need, including 12.1 million people in acute need. The YHRP is based on the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), published by the Humanitarian Country Team in February, which highlighted that Yemen – already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis for the past four years – is at high risk of rapidly deteriorating into the worst famine the world has seen in decades.

Unprecedented levels of humanitarian assistance helped avert famine and other disasters in 2019, yet the underlying drivers of the crisis persist. Throughout 2020, the humanitarian situation was aggravated by escalating conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, disease outbreaks, torrential rains and flooding, a desert locust plague, economic collapse, a fuel crisis across northern governorates and reduced humanitarian aid. As the devastating armed conflict continues into 2021, vulnerable populations are increasingly unable to cope. Today, some 20.7 million people in Yemen require some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. More than 16.2 million of them face going hungry this year, including some 5 million people on the verge of famine and nearly 50,000 people already experiencing famine-like conditions. 7.6 million people are estimated to need services to treat or prevent malnutrition, and over 2.25 million children aged below five and more than a million pregnant and lactating women are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021.

Meanwhile, preventable diseases have become pervasive and morbidity and mortality are increasing, even as health partners do all they can to mitigate and address the spread of COVID-19 while safeguarding the existing health system from collapse. The conflict continues to devastate families, put civilians at grave risk and cause the death and injury of men, women and children. Since its start, the conflict has displaced over 4 million people, making Yemen the fourth largest internal displacement crisis worldwide. Against all this is an operating environment that has been extremely restricted, characterized by extensive access challenges and insecurity that hinder a principled aid operation. With principled aid delivery at risk, humanitarian partners continue to calibrate assistance to reduce risk levels and strengthen measures to ensure that assistance goes where it should – to the people who most need it.

The escalating conflict, deteriorating economic situation, food insecurity and nutrition conditions indicate that needs will continue to increase this year. Even more suffering looms from potential shocks such as disease outbreaks, natural hazards and a potential oil spill from the floating storage and offloading unit (FSO) SAFER off Yemen’s west coast. Without adequate funding, these needs cannot be met and gains achieved to date will be reversed, plunging Yemen even further into crisis.

$3.85 billion is required to ensure that 16 million people in Yemen receive the protection and humanitarian assistance they need this year. The 2021 YHRP strategy is centered on three priority objectives: (i) preventing disease outbreaks and reducing morbidity and mortality; (ii) preventing famine, malnutrition and restoring livelihoods; and (iii) protecting and assisting civilians. 167 partners will implement the response, which focuses on displaced and marginalized communities, and for which enhanced cooperation between the humanitarian community and the Government of Yemen and the authorities in Sana’a will be essential. At a high-level pledging event co-hosted by the UN and Governments of Switzerland and Sweden on 1 March, nearly $1.7 billion was pledged towards the HRP funding requirement – less than last year’s pledges, and a billion dollars less than the amount raised in 2019. Some $442.3 million of this has been disbursed, and the humanitarian community continues to urge donors to swiftly disburse the remaining pledges.

It is urgent that aid agencies secure sufficient resources to keep people alive. Inadequate support means that life-saving programmes will be forced to stop or scale down, with devastating consequences for Yemen and its people. While the only way to end the crisis in Yemen is ultimately through lasting and inclusive peace, there is still an opportunity to make a difference right now. As emphasized by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock at the high-level pledging event: “Millions of Yemenis are looking to the world for help. The good news is the world knows exactly what is needed to prevent catastrophe: pay for the aid operation, ensure access for aid workers, support the economy and – most of all – end the war. The only question is: what will the world choose to do?”

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Situation Report
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Situation Report
Background

Prioritizing People in Need

Severe deterioration in living standards, physical and mental wellbeing and coping capacity have created immense support needs in Yemen, where people have been enduring devastating multifaceted impacts of the country’s protracted crisis for the past six years. Of the estimated 20.7 million people who require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, 5.5 million are girls, 5.8 million are boys, 4.6 million are women and 4.8 million are men. 1.8 million are pregnant and lactating women, 2.8 million are children under the age of five, 3.1 million are people with disabilities and over 925,000 are people over 60 years of age. 12.1 million people are in acute need, and of the over 4 million people internally displaced, some 3 million are determined to be in circumstances between severe and catastrophic.

The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) revealed that severe needs exist across multiple sectors in the same locations in Yemen, disproportionately affecting marginalized and vulnerable groups. Millions of people in Yemen face compounding challenges related to food insecurity and malnutrition, displacement, disease and protection risks, their vulnerabilities deepened by increased hostilities, economic decline, flooding, locust swarms and a significant reduction in funding for humanitarian aid. Although 20.7 million people are in need and humanitarian partners aim to assist some 16 million people under the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), continued resource shortages mean that partners are forced to prioritize who receives what assistance when. In line with humanitarian principles, this prioritization is determined based on vulnerability and needs to ensure that help first reaches those who require it most.

A central element of this is the Joint Inter- Sector Analysis Framework (JIAF), which measures needs based on indicators related to humanitarian conditions as defined by living standards, coping capacity and physical and mental wellbeing, as well as severity rankings ranging from one (none/minimal) to five (catastrophic). Over half of Yemen’s population live in areas with severity rankings of three, four and five (severe, extreme and catastrophic respectively): 65 of Yemen’s 333 districts are categorized as catastrophic in severity, 164 as extreme, and 103 as severe. This translates to an alarming 3.3 million people deemed to be in catastrophic need, pointing to a complete collapse of living standards, exhaustion of last resort coping mechanisms and excess mortality. These districts are where the most urgent assistance is required to save lives and prevent the disintegration of livelihoods.

On top of this, 17 million more people are in severe and extreme circumstances as a result of deteriorating living standards and basic services, increased reliance on negative coping strategies and the significant impact of the conflict on physical safety and mental resilience. Indeed, the highest severity is found in areas close to the frontlines, indicative of how conflict is driving needs throughout the country. This analysis allows for effective needs-based prioritization in the humanitarian response, based on geographical severity and highlighting vulnerable groups disproportionately in need of assistance, including displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, people with disabilities and Muhamasheen – the people bearing the brunt of the ongoing crisis.

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Situation Report
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Emergency Response
covid-19

Resurgence of COVID-19 Cases in Yemen

A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases has been observed in Yemen since mid-February, with the number of new cases reported by the Government of Yemen (GoY) in areas under its control rising from fewer than 10 per week since October 2020 to 21 in the week of 15 February 2021, followed by 112, 175, 327, 507 and 691 new cases respectively in each of the subsequent five weeks. The number of COVID-19 associated deaths has also increased over the same period, from two deaths the week of 15 February to 13, 19, 33, 54 and 95 deaths respectively in each of the weeks that followed.

Since the first COVID-19 case was identified in April 2020, health authorities have reported 4,119 confirmed cases as of 29 March 2021, mostly in GoY areas – nearly half of these within the past five weeks alone. The highest numbers have been reported in Hadramawt (1,896 cases), Aden (774 cases) and Ta’iz (560 cases) governorates. With a high associated fatality rate at hospital ICU-level of 21 per cent – due mainly to late arrival of patients and a lack of experienced human resources and capacities – 864 COVID-19 associated deaths have been recorded, as well as 1,659 recoveries. Official information about the number of cases in areas under the control of Ansar Allah in the north of Yemen remains absent, although informal indications are that cases are rising there too. Health authorities in both the north and south of Yemen have highlighted the need to enhance measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including isolating suspected and confirmed cases as well as initiating epidemiological investigations.

Inadequate testing facilities and official reporting as well as delays in people seeking treatment due to stigma, difficulty in accessing treatment centres and the perceived risks of seeking care continue to inhibit the response to COVID-19. To address this, health partners are working to enhance surveillance for the prevention and early detection of COVID-19, promote behavioral change through risk communication and community engagement (RCCE), expand testing capacity and support COVID-19 case management. WHO and health partners are further scaling up their support by providing essential, lifesaving medicines and medical supplies, to enable case management of patients, including severe cases, while ensuring the protection of health care workers. Efforts are also underway to vaccinate priority groups such as frontline health care workers, older people and people with comorbidities. Yemen will receive 14 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, which will cover the vaccination of some 23 per cent of the population across all governorates. The first 360,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were received on 31 March, together with 13,000 safety boxes and 1.3 million syringes that are critical for the safe and effective roll-out of the vaccination campaign. This first batch is part of 1.9 million doses that Yemen will initially receive throughout 2021.

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Yemen

Situation Report
Feature

Persistent fuel shortages undercut humanitarian operations and exacerbate humanitarian needs

Yemen’s northern governorates have been contending with crippling fuel shortages since June 2020, following a dispute over the use of revenue from fuel imports between the Government of Yemen and the de facto authorities in Sana’a. Shortages have deepened since January 2021, leaving the population struggling to access essential services and impacting aid partners’ ability to deliver humanitarian assistance to people in need.

In the meantime, people in northern governorates have become increasingly dependent on the fuel supplies made available through the informal market – usually smuggled from areas under the control of the Government of Yemen in the south – with fuel prices doubling or even tripling in some areas, which has contributed to increases in food and water prices, further eroding families’ purchasing power and exacerbating humanitarian needs.

In January 2021, only four commercial fuel tankers discharged their fuel cargo of 80,854 metric tonnes (MTs) in Al Hodeidah. No fuel vessels were permitted to enter Al Hodeidah port in February despite all fuel vessels being inspected and cleared by the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM). As of 29 March, one commercial fuel vessel discharged 3,705 MTs of fuel for WFP and four UNVIMcleared commercial fuel tankers with a combined cargo of 72,295 MTs had entered Al Hodeidah port and were in the process of discharging their cargo. Another ten UNVIM-cleared vessels with a combined cargo of 237,519 MTs of fuel remain held in the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) holding area, awaiting permission from the Government of Yemen to enter. These vessels have been waiting for clearance for an average of 72 days, further increasing costs that will be passed on to Yemeni consumers.

In a precedent not seen since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, no commercial fuel imports entered Al Hodeidah port for 52 days-from 28 January to 21 March 2021. This is an alarming development, considering that more than half of Yemen’s commercial fuel imports had been coming through Al Hodeidah in recent years.

Field reports indicate that fuel shortages are impacting commercial activity, including the transport of food to markets, and threaten to undercut the availability of clean water as fuel-powered water pumps run out of fuel. Aid partners report that the price of water has increased across northern governorates – by up to 50 per cent in Hajjah and Al Hodeidah, for example – risking an increase of diseases such as Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) or cholera.

Humanitarian operations are also being impacted by the limited availability of fuel, according to reports from aid partners. WFP reports that transporters it contracted to deliver food assistance are facing delays of between three and four days in some districts due to the limited availability of fuel.

Nutrition Cluster partners report that outpatient therapeutic feeding, targeted supplementary feeding and blanket supplementary feeding programmes have been affected by fuel shortages. In addition, 619 nutrition sites have been impacted, affecting 38,655 children under five and pregnant and lactating women. Partners warn that an additional 867 nutrition sites will soon be impacted, affecting an estimated 138,981 children under five and pregnant and lactating women. Meanwhile, Shelter Cluster partners report that the limited availability of fuel has impacted assistance distribution activities, needs assessments, transport of supplies and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of transitional shelters, affecting 17,760 families in Sana’a and Ta’iz governorates alone.

Protection Cluster partners have reported a reduction in protection activities, including the provision of psychosocial support and legal aid and the conduct of needs assessments. Partners have resorted to relying on mobile clinics to visit beneficiaries who cannot afford the transportation costs to visit community centres. Overall, protection partners estimate that limited fuel availability had impacted the provision of services to 10,500 families in Ibb, Ta’iz and Sa’dah governorates.

Evidence is also emerging that fuel shortages are impacting WASH support activities, affecting the delivery of assistance to some three million people across northern governorates. Partners report that some water delivery and sanitation projects have been suspended, with cleaning activities and assessment and monitoring activities also impacted.

Almost all health facilities – which rely on fuel to power their electricity generators – have been affected by the limited availability of fuel. Field reports indicate that some health facilities in Ibb, Sana’a, and Sa’dah governorates face an imminent risk of being forced to suspend health services due to lack of fuel. Meanwhile, the people who most need aid cannot afford the increased transportation costs to seek treatment in health facilities.

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Yemen

Situation Report
Feature
Gressely
Mr. Gressly in the DRC. MONUSCO / ©Flickr

Displaced families relocated from schools in Ta’iz Governorate

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, accompanied by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Chief of Mission in Yemen, Christa Rottensteiner and other UN officials, visited Ma’rib on 20 March to see first-hand the growing humanitarian needs of displaced families, including those newly displaced following the most recent escalation of hostilities there, which began in the first week of February. Mr. Gressly visited two displacement sites, where he met with internally displaced people and community members.

During the two-day visit, Mr. Gressly also met with local authorities, including the Governor of Ma’rib, and with humanitarian partners working on the ground. He also met the strengthened field coordination fora recently introduced by OCHA in Ma’rib, which was well received by authorities and partners.

The armed confrontations that erupted in several districts of Ma’rib in the first week of February 2021 have led to the displacement of at least 2,133 families (about 15,000 people) as of 25 March, according to IOM. Many of those displaced are from Sirwah District, which saw some of the heaviest fighting. Most of the newly displaced people reported being displaced for the third or fourth time, and many are living in extremely precarious conditions. Ma’rib Governorate hosts the largest IDP population in Yemen, according to local authorities – with some living in approximately 125 IDP sites. Sirwah District hosts around 30,000 displaced people in at least 14 displacement sites.

Earlier, Mr. Gressly, accompanied by OCHA Head of Office, visited Al Hodeidah, including the Al Hodeidah seaport, over the period 6 to 8 March, to assess the humanitarian situation and discuss ways of addressing the immense humanitarian challenges in the governorate. In his meeting with local authorities, including Al Hodeidah’s acting Governor, Mr. Gressly emphasized the need to de-escalate hostilities and grant relief organizations the necessary access to aid people in need across the governorate. Mr. Gressly also met with humanitarian partners and had the opportunity to speak to families affected by the conflict, including displaced people.

Al Hodeidah is one of the governorates with the highest severity of needs in Yemen. More than 2.57 million of the 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen live in the governorate. More than one million people living in Al Hodeidah face a crisis level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) or above, and the governorate is one of six in Yemen with acute malnutrition rates exceeding the 15 per cent World Health Organization (WHO) emergency threshold.

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Tents in the new hosting site for the displaced families. Source: Shelter Cluster

Displaced families relocated from schools in Ta’iz Governorate

On 20 February, a long-running inter-cluster endeavor came to fruition as 106 displaced families were successfully relocated from two schools in Ash Shamayatayn District in Ta’iz Governorate to a new hosting site within the same district. The families had been living in the two schools – Al-Noman and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed in the At Turbah area – since July 2015, when hostilities drove people to flee Ta’iz City for surrounding areas. This resulted in the closure of the Al-Noman school as well as 16 out of 24 classes at the Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed school, affecting some 950 students who as a result faced longer and riskier journeys to other schools and increased congestion in classes that remained open.

To enable the resumption of education services at the schools, the Ash Shamayatayn District authorities and host community entreated for the relocation of the displaced families to alternative hosting sites. Aid partners raised this appeal with the Government of Yemen’s Executive Unit for Internally Displaced Persons (ExU) in 2019, with the ExU subsequently proposing six potential sites. Three of these were rejected on protection grounds, while two others were refused by the landowners. As time progressed, the displaced families endured increasing insecurity and risk of eviction, as disgruntlement among the host community grew about their protracted occupancy of the schools and delays in their relocation. Ultimately, local authorities set a deadline by which the schools had to be vacated – 30 November 2020 – after which the families faced forcible expulsion.

Given the grave risk this posed to the people living in the two schools, OCHA engaged with the Governor of Ta’iz, successfully requesting that no deadline be imposed before an alternative site was available as well as assurances that the displaced families would be protected from harm. Efforts were increased to locate a suitable site, and one was finally identified and approved by a multisectoral team in the first half of December 2020. Site preparations quickly commenced. The ExU was designated to pave the site and prepare access roads, and humanitarian partners across sectors coordinated to make the site habitable. By early February 2021, 97 shelters had been installed by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and nine more by the UNHCR partner Suna’a Al-Nahda, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) installed the most needed water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, and cluster partners including for Food Security and Agriculture (FSAC), Health and Protection were standing by to provide their services at the site. Preparations continued in the weeks that followed, and the displaced families were moved from the schools to the new site on 20 February.

With the two schools in Ash Shamayatayn District now vacated, the Education Cluster plans to implement rehabilitation activities and replace materials to rectify the damage and wear and tear incurred as a result of over five years of residential occupancy. Through this collective effort, humanitarian partners were able to provide safe and dignified accommodation to the displaced families while also returning the two schools to educational service for children living in proximity to Al- Noman and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed.

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Feature

Fire in Sana’a Immigration Holding Facility

On 7 March, a fire tore through an immigration holding facility in Sana’a, killing at least 45 migrants and injuring over 170 others. Nearly 900 migrants – most of whom are Ethiopian – were held in the overcrowded facility, which is run by the Immigration, Passports and Naturalization Authority (IPNA). Over 350 people were in the hangar area where the fire broke out, reportedly as a result of teargas canisters discharged into the hangar by guards attempting to end migrants’ protests against their treatment at the facility.

Humanitarian actors were on site when this devastating incident occurred, enabling an immediate response as teams of health workers and ambulances were swiftly dispatched to the facility and major hospitals to support the Ministry of Public Health and Population in providing urgent life-saving assistance. Access to victims of the fire has been challenging, however. Health teams were initially kept out of intensive care units (ICU) and emergency rooms, and the migrant community was denied access to the injured and the deceased. Humanitarian and health partners have since been able to gain access to survivors, albeit with continued heightened security presence and limits on access to ICUs and the main burn unit where patients are receiving treatment.

As of 31 March, more than 29,000 medical items have been provided by humanitarian partners, as well as 610 food packages and 204 kits of non-food items including clothes, hygiene materials and other specialized items. Delivery of a further 17,000 medical kits and supplies and 500 blankets has also been coordinated. Humanitarian actors continue to communicate offers of support to the hospitals and to authorities, including with regard to family tracing efforts for the dead and injured.

Forty-five victims of the fire have reportedly been buried in the Sana’a Central Cemetery, and of the estimated 170 injured migrants, some remain in public hospitals while others were transferred to private hospitals, police stations or other temporary detention facilities. Detainees of the affected facility who escaped the fire were reportedly released into Sana’a city, transferred to police stations or to southern governorates controlled by the international recognized government as the facility was vacated following the tragedy. Efforts to verify their whereabouts are ongoing, as are discussions between key stakeholders to potentially organize exceptional returns for people affected.

Despite the ongoing conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen remains a transit country for migrants travelling between the Horn of Africa and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some 138,000 migrants lived in Yemen as of late 2020, all of whom have a right to protection and safety afforded by the authorities. The UN reiterates its call for the cessation of arbitrary arrest, detention and forced transfer of migrants in Yemen. Alternatives to detention are needed for humane migration management, with migrants granted freedom of movement and access to services as well as access to voluntary and safe humanitarian returns administered in line with international human rights standards.

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