Crisis briefing – Delivering aid against the odds in Yemen


The largest food crisis in the world could soon get a lot worse as the risk of heightened conflict close to the strategic port of Al Hudaydah threatens to affect food imports even further, potentially pushing the country in to famine.

The war has decimated Yemen’s health system and cut 15.7 million people off from adequate clean water and sanitation. In the last 10 months, about 30,000 health and sanitation workers have not received their salaries.

The cholera epidemic could spread further during the rainy season, which started in July, and more cases are expected as food insecurity and malnutrition grows. Over half a million cholera cases were reported between 27 April and 22 August and this is expected to rise to 600,000 by the end of the year.

Lack of funds and the challenges of working in the midst of conflict, such as reaching inaccessible areas, mean aid agencies cannot keep up with the increasing needs across the country.

DEC aid agencies are reporting that some families are sharing what they receive, such as cash grants, with neighbours because there is simply not enough aid to reach all those in need of help.

The DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal

  • Has raised £24 million since December 2016
  • Has reached more than 1.3 million people in Yemen between December 2016 and June 2017
  • More than one million people have received clean water or sanitation services or hygiene kits to reduce the risk of disease – of which 750,000 will continue to have access to clean water through rehabilitated water pipes
  • More than 154,450 people have received medical consultation, treatment or health training, of which 34,331 people have been treated for communicable diseases or conflict-related injuries – 22,609 of them children.
  • More than 112,000 people have received food, such as bread or food parcels, and vouchers to purchase food.
  • Another 56,000 people have received cash or vouchers to help them buy essential supplies.
  • More than 141,700 people have been screened or treated for malnutrition.

Crisis in numbers

  • One in 10 people are homeless. Most have been displaced for over a year.
  • As many as 20.7 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • More than half the country – 17 million people – are hungry and need food aid.
  • At least one child under five dies every ten minutes in Yemen because of preventable disease.

Cholera response

Since the end of April 2017, Yemen has been experiencing its worst recorded outbreak of cholera in a single year. Cholera has polluted water sources forcing people to resort to drinking from unprotected wells, perpetuating the crisis.

In response, DEC aid agencies quickly reallocated funds to prevent and treat this highly contagious disease. They provided water purification tablets to families and helped with water chlorination in institutions and large water distribution points. They distributed oral rehydration sachets and hygiene kits, containing essentials such as soap, toothpaste, a washing basin, a plastic jug, towels and a mosquito net, and trained health workers to prevent and treat cholera, who then ran hygiene sessions with communities. DEC agencies also constructed solar-powered water systems and delivered clean water by truck to remote parts of the country.

Food in crisis

Yemen is almost entirely dependent on imported food but airstrikes have damaged the country’s main port.

The continued conflict has restricted traders and slowed the flow of essential items to local markets. The average price for basic food for one month is 33 per cent higher than before the crisis.

The British Red Cross with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worked with a network of bakeries to provide bread to 87,374 people living in a hard-to-reach area of the country for 33 days, while Tearfund’s in-country partner and Islamic Relief provided almost 24,000 people with food parcels.  

Adapting to shifting conflict

Given their experience and knowledge of Yemen, DEC agencies and their partners are able to adapt to the changing realities on the ground, such as disease outbreaks and rapid movement of people fleeing new outbreaks of conflict.

DEC aid agencies are able to provide aid in active conflict areas, including Taiz where increased fighting has pushed thousands to flee the city for surrounding areas. The sudden influx of people is stretching clean water and health services and increasing diseases, such as diarrhoea.

Oxfam responded by increasing the amount of clean drinking water it trucked in to 182 public water points, reaching almost 129,500 people and helping reduce cases of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases.

Aid effort continues

DEC aid agencies will continue to work across the country providing lifesaving malnutrition treatment, access to clean water to prevent cholera, food vouchers, cash and other emergency aid. Meanwhile the DEC and its member agencies continue to raise funds for the crisis, call for humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities.

Ten DEC members (the British Red Cross, CARE International UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Save the Children UK, Christian Aid, Tearfund, Concern Worldwide, Age International and CAFOD) are working around the clock to reach those most in need either directly or through in-country partner charities.

  • £25 could provide a month’s supply of life-saving peanut paste to a malnourished child
  • £60 could provide clean drinking water for two families for a month
  • £100 could provide supplies to a clinic treating severely malnourished children for a week

To make a donation to the DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal visit, call 01204 770 822 or 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.