8.4 million people in Yemen are at risk of starvation, making it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the eyes of the UN’s Secretary General. Despite severe difficulties in accessing the conflict-torn country, Cordaid is now offering emergency assistance to war victims in cooperation with a local partner organization.
Displaced families transport food to their temporary shelter near Sana’a (© Yamaan Foundation)
Situation in Yemen
Despite the scale of the crisis, with up to 22 million people in need of aid and protection, media coverage has been minimal. It is largely a forgotten crisis. As journalists are blocked from entering the country, reliable information about the crisis is limited.
Even before the recent conflict, many Yemenis struggled to keep their heads above water. After the Arab Spring there was a change of power. Armed groups took advantage of the ensuing instability to gain ground.
“Currently we mainly concentrate on saving lives. But as soon as the situation improves, we’d like to assist people to pick up their lives again.”
In early 2015, armed Houthi fighters took control of Sana’a, the capital. Together with the Yemeni government led by President Hadi, neighboring country Saudi Arabia wages an all-out brutal war against the Houthis. This war and the continuous air raids on public infrastructure, are said to have caused the humanitarian crisis at hand. They have ravaged a country that was already struggling with extreme poverty.
The poorest parts of the population pay the biggest price. They have to cope with destruction, famine, cholera outbreaks and other adversities that come with war. Meanwhile, international aid organizations are prevented from entering the country. The Saoudi led coalition has firmly locked off the country, among other things to prevent the supply of weapons for armed Houthi factions.
Food, shelter and hygiene
Despite many challenges, Cordaid has succeeded in finding a local aid organization to work with and to provide assistance to 770 families who are among the hardest hit populations. This week the Yamaan Foundation will start distributing food vouchers, money for shelter and hygiene kits. They will do this with support from Cordaid.
“It’s our approach to support and strengthen local organizations,” says a Cordaid emergency aid coordinator. Soon Cordaid will provide Yamaan Foundation staff with a training on new forms of aid and safety for beneficiaries.
“We work with food vouchers because it is proven to be effective. Not only for the people we help but for the entire community. Purchasing, storing and distributing food ourselves, is a very expensive logistical operation. By giving vouchers people can spend on the market or in stores, we stimulate the local economy. Everyone benefits. In addition, it gives people who fled the violence control over what they want to purchase. This is important. It gives them a little bit of badly needed dignity and self-esteem.”
The ongoing conflict has created huge food shortages in Yemen. However, around the cities of Sana’a and Ibb there are still functioning markets. “It is very important that we keep those markets alive. Many displaced persons gather in these areas. This helps us to reach out to them and provide life-saving assistance.”
Our emergency aid coordinator emphasizes that this humanitarian effort is a first step that might be expanded in order to provide long-term support to Yemen’s war victims. “Hopefully, after this initial phase, we will raise more funds for our work in Yemen. The humanitarian needs are so vast. Currently, we mainly concentrate on saving lives. But as soon as the situation improves, we’d like to assist people to pick up their lives again.”