Four Years of Conflict in Yemen

Millions of people in Yemen face violence, poverty, displacement, malnutrition, and cholera. Action Against Hunger teams are on the front lines of the humanitarian response.

Since the escalation of conflict in Yemen in March 2015, the number of people in need has increased drastically. Today, nearly 80% of the population require some form of humanitarian assistance. 

The fragile truce in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah declared in December has not improved the humanitarian situation on the ground. The peace process seems daunting, but action is needed now: millions of people are suffering. All parties to the conflict must stop the escalation of violence and work toward a nationwide ceasefire. 

Crisis Overview 

Over the last four years, warring parties have targeted basic infrastructure repeatedly, including attacks on schools, health facilities, markets, roads, agricultural land, water systems, power sources, and residential buildings. These attacks have systematically prevented Yemeni people from accessing safe water, food, and health care, increasing the risk of malnutrition, cholera, and other illnesses.

While the true cost of a humanitarian crisis cannot be calculated in statistics alone, these figures are mind-boggling:

  • 3.3 million people are displaced.
  • 16 million people need health, water, sanitation, and hygiene services. 
  • Half the country’s health facilities are shut down. 
  • More than 70% of health facilities are not stocked with essential medicines.

Approximately 1.25 million civil servants have not received regular salaries. Before the conflict began, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East, and poverty and malnutrition rates were alarming. Increasing household food insecurity, disease outbreaks, and the collapse of the health system, along with high inflation and economic decline, have all aggravated the national nutrition crisis. 

Now, Yemen is closer to famine than ever before. 15.9 million people are severely food insecure, including seven million malnourished people. Current estimates show that an estimated 250,000 people, around 1% of the population, are living in famine-like conditions.

Cholera Threat Looms: Dalal’s Story

In the paediatric emergency unit, newborn Mohammed receives immediate rehydration treatment for cholera.

Photo: Action Against Hunger, Yemen

Last year, Yemen was hit by the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, affecting near one million people. In response, Action Against Hunger provides safe water through water trucking, trains Ministry of Health staff on cholera prevention, distributes hygiene kits, and educates people about hygiene. We also train community health workers, who can reach even more people through home visits.

Dalal, a 25-year-old woman from Hodeidah, is one of Action Against Hunger’s patients. She is married and has two children – two-year-old Amgad and newborn Mohammed. Just three days after Mohammed was born, he and his mom both contracted cholera.  

Protracted conflict and collapse of basic services have caused massive deterioration in living standards. Dalal and her family are barely able to survive: her husband does not have a job and the family does not have a regular source of income. They have no choice but to drink contaminated water from the public water network.

With symptoms of severe dehydration and shock, Dalal and her baby were admitted to our recently rehabilitated Diarrhoea Treatment Center in Hodeidah. Dalal appeared lethargic and confused. Her body temperature was well below normal. Doctors suspected cholera – a result later confirmed through laboratory tests.

Dalal was immediately treated and closely observed. Luckily, her condition gradually improved, and she regained consciousness. Her newborn son, Mohammed, was transferred to the paediatric emergency unit to receive immediate rehydration treatment and 24 hours later, was moved to the Intensive Care Unit for further treatment. He responded well to treatment, and two weeks later, he was cleared to go home.

An Action Against Hunger team member in the paediatric emergency unit holds Mohammed, who has recovered from a case of cholera.

Photo: Action Against Hunger, Yemen

Treating Malnutrition: Abdulqader’s Story

Abdulqader was nine months old and malnourished when his father, Mohammed, brought him to our health center in Hodeidah. 

The family once lived in Hared District, where Mohammed worked as a security guard. But as the conflict intensified, they were forced to flee, leaving their home and most of their possessions behind. Now, the whole family depends on a small sum they collect through begging on the streets. 

Mohammed told our team that the only way he could bring Abdulqader to the health center was because services offered are free. After the hospital staff measured his height, weight, and mid-upper arm circumference, he was diagnosed with malnutrition and diarrhea and admitted for treatment.

At the center, Abdulqader was not only treated, but his mother learned how to care for him at home. With weekly follow up visits, the boy’s health status gradually improved. In the meantime, Action Against Hunger community health volunteers regularly visited Abdulqader’s mother at home to provide advice on health and hygiene. By his fifth visit, Abdulqader’s health had improved and he was out of danger.

A community health worker checks on nine-month-old Abdulqader and his mother.

Photo: Action Against Hunger, Yemen

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.