Yemen: Escalating humanitarian crisis

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More than 5,000 civilians have been killed and 9,000 injured in the conflict in Yemen over the last three years. More than 70% of the population–21 million Yemenis–need emergency aid and to make matters worse, on November 6, a blockade was imposed, preventing the entry of food, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid into the country. Yemeni ports of entry are beginning to see some desperately needed shipments of food and aid, but 7 million people in the country continue to be on the brink of famine. Arnaud Pont, Yemen emergency desk officer at HI explains the gravity of the situation:

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A disastrous humanitarian situation

The crisis in Yemen has led to months of food shortages: 17 million people–60% of the population–are food insecure, of whom 7 million are on the brink of famine. Some 3 million people have been forcibly displaced by violence. Fewer than half of the health centers are operating normally. Forty-nine of the country’s 276 districts are without doctors. Between April and September, a cholera epidemic killed 2,000 people (out of 900,000 suspected cases).

Impact of the blockade

The closure of seaports, airports, and land crossings in and out of the country since November 6 has seriously aggravated the humanitarian crisis. The blockade threatens the lives of millions of people who have been struggling to survive for months.

All food products, medical supplies and so on have been prevented from entering the country for the past few weeks. The price of petrol and diesel have risen by 170% and 60% respectively. The minimum food basket now costs 20% more than it did before the crisis, and the price of water has increased by 133%.

A shortage of fuel needed to pump water from underground could bring an end to water distributions. Water shortages have already raised the risk of outbreaks of water-borne disease, including cholera, only recently brought under control. Several people have died of suspected diphtheria within the last few days.

Petrol shortages have also had a serious impact on health centers, including the closure of intensive care units. Stocks of wheat and sugar are set to run out within three months.

Humanitarian aid suspended

The blockade has severely disrupted the distribution of humanitarian assistance to 27 million people. Humanitarian workers have been unable to enter or leave the country since November 6. On November 15, OCHA reported that 300,000 tons of food and some 200,000 tons of petrol are being held up at the border. The blockade on supplies threatens the lives of 400,000 pregnant women who require essential medical supplies and equipment.

Handicap International in Yemen

HI has been present in Yemen since 2014. The organization’s team of 60 staff members, including eight international staff (three based in Sanaa), work in five health centers and hospitals in Sanaa where they provide rehabilitation care, train and assist medical teams in providing functional rehabilitation care, distribute mobility aids (crutches, wheelchairs) and equip hospitals. HI also runs psychosocial support sessions for traumatized conflict-affected people. We’re also raising the awareness of NGOs in the field to ensure people with disabilities and vulnerable people are included in humanitarian action.

Key figures (Nov 2016 to Oct 2017):

  • 1,330 beneficiaries of rehabilitation sessions
  • 2,700 beneficiaries of psychosocial sessions
  • 1,440 mobility aids distributed, including wheelchairs and crutches
  • 66 medical staff (nurses, caregivers) trained in basic rehabilitation care and psychosocial support
  • 60 humanitarian organizations made aware of the need to include people with disabilities in emergency aid