Situation Report
women needs

Women and girls’ protection needs urgent, but resources are limited

Women and girls are among the most vulnerable in Yemen. The conflict and its drivers are making an already dire situation worse for the protection and rights of women and girls. An estimated 6.1 million women in Yemen are in urgent need of protection services.

The protection needs are even more severe for women and girls who are displaced. An estimated 73 per cent of the over 4 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Yemen are women and children. With limited shelter options, displaced women and girls tend to suffer most from lack of privacy, threats to safety and limited access to basic services, making them even more vulnerable to violence and abuse. The loss of a male breadwinner due to the conflict adds to the economic burden women face. Approximately 30 per cent of displaced households are now headed by women, compared to 9 per cent before the escalation of the conflict in 2015. The challenges are compounded by rising food prices, instigated by a sharp devaluation of the Yemeni riyal and a collapsing economy.

Recent trend analyses indicate an increasing number of women and girls engaging in negative coping mechanisms in order to survive. An increase in the incidence of violence among women and girls has also been reported, likely exacerbated by COVID-19. In 2020, despite severe underreporting, demand for women protection services increased by 37 per cent.

A study by UNFPA Women’s Refugee Commission and John Hopkins University across three governorates in Yemen provides evidence of an increase in child marriages among displaced populations; with 1 in 5 displaced girls aged 10 to 19 being married, compared to 1 in 8 girls in the host community. According to the same study, negative maternal health outcomes were also experienced by married girls. Other possible negative coping mechanisms include coerced sex work, begging, child labour and human trafficking, and attempted suicide, among others.

The collapse of public institutions, the legal system and informal protection mechanisms has translated into scarcity of support services for women and girls. Public services for survivors of violence such as shelter for those requiring protection, psychosocial support and emergency cash support for basic protection are almost non-existent. In addition, available services are not equipped logistically to accommodate the needs of women and girls with disabilities, who are at an even greater risk of genderbased violence in their communities.

A few humanitarian actors are providing women protection services in the country at present. They rely on donor funding to remain functional. Yet, women protection programmes are among the most underfunded. In 2020, 350,000 women lost access to gender-based violence services following the closure of 12 women and girls’ safe spaces due to the lack of funding. As of October 2021, only 54 per cent of the $27 million required for women protection programmes under the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan has been received.

It remains urgent that services for women’s protection- which include medical assistance, psychosocial support, emergency shelter, legal assistance and specialized psychosocial mental health - are up-scaled to meet growing needs, while expanding geographical coverage and strengthening capacities for service providers. In addition, supporting the social and economic empowerment of displaced women and girls, especially female-headed households through cash assistance, skills building and livelihood opportunities is also essential to reduce their vulnerabilities and engagement in negative coping mechanisms.

The lack of women’s protection services would mean that women and girls will continue to suffer in silence. A woman who has suffered violence and has not received any medical or psychosocial services is, at worst, at risk of death.