Yemen on the Brink

Your Support is Vital in keeping UNHCR’s lifesaving aid programme running!

Ipteehal, 9, plays kitchen with her younger sister Radia, 3, outside an unfinished building in Al Mukalla, Hadramaut, Yemen.

Despite desperate appeals for a ceasefire by the UN, the war in Yemen is intensifying. Civilian casualties have risen every month with more than 500 people killed or injured since January – a third are children and many as the result of devastating airstrikes.

In the first half of 2020, once-in-a-generation flooding devastated southern communities and fuelled the spread of killer diseases, including cholera, dengue fever, malaria and diphtheria. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is wreaking further havoc in this ravaged country where nearly 50% of health facilities have been wiped out by war.

Yemen is on the brink. 80% of the population need some form of aid. Yet the country’s suffering has gone mostly unnoticed by the media.

With continuing violence, the looming COVID-19 threat and UNHCR’s aid efforts remaining 70% underfunded, time is running out for millions of vulnerable Yemenis.

Charred, Maimed, but Still Thankful to God

“Look at my condition now. The hospital said I need at least three operations, but I must pay first, and I don’t have any money.” Fatima, internally displaced Yemeni mother

Fatima was cooking for her children when her home in Al Rabasan was hit by an airstrike and a gas cylinder exploded. Her home was destroyed, her skin charred and her body maimed.

Like millions of her fellow compatriots, Fatima was left in desperate conditions. Forced to run for their lives, her family became some of the 3.6 million people displaced by the war. To this day, her life remains in limbo. “We have nothing. No place to even rest after we fast,” she says during Ramadan.

The surging pandemic adds yet another layer of misery to Fatima’s life. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across Yemen, killing 25% of Yemenis confirmed to have the disease. That’s five times the global average. With an economy in shatters and very little job opportunities around, 90% of the population can’t afford medical treatment and many are surviving on just one meal a day. Should Fatima get infected by COVID-19, she may well lose her life. 

Despite such a grim outlook, her spirit remains strong and she doesn’t want to ask anyone for help. “We’re not beggars. Even if all we have is bread and tea, we’re thankful to God.”

UNHCR’s Response to Yemen’s Health Crisis

Yemen’s health system is undergoing a meltdown. Already overstretched due to severe outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever, only 50% of health facilities are functioning. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has created an unprecedented health threat, with displaced people living in overcrowded tents and sub-hygienic conditions, and social distancing and regular hand washing almost impossible.

Besides, owing to a lack of facilities, hospitals have been refusing access to suspected COVID-19 patients and there are severe shortages of ventilators, oxygen and personal protective equipment (PPE), making protection against COVID-19 extremely difficult.

Still, we are not abandoning Yemen. In times of crisis, we stay and deliver.


We support 5 fully operational clinics in Yemen, which administered primary health care to 30,800 patients, and referred another 1,670 people for rehabilitation, physiotherapy, provision of prosthetic limbs and life-saving surgeries in the first four months of 2020.

 We ensure all our frontline partners are equipped with PPE and hold extensive training ON COVID-19 preventative measures.

COVID-19 Communications

We operate a 24/7 information hotline, hold local awareness campaigns on prevention and distribute communication materials to raise awareness about how to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


We are assessing families, including female-headed households, the elderly with no other means of support, persons with disabilities, survivors of gender-based violence, and children at risk of violence, to identify those that need urgent medical interventions, legal assistance, psychosocial support and referrals.


Emergency Distribution

UNHCR is the leading provider of shelters in internally displaced hosting sites in Yemen. Our distribution of core relief items and shelter kits have so far reached more than 7,000 displaced families, and will reach a further 6,500 families in Hudaydah.

Last year, more than 86,000 families received core relief items such as bedding materials, kitchen sets and solar lamps, while more than 17,000 families received shelter kits.

Cash Assistance

Given security concerns that prevented UNHCR staff from accessing people in some of the dangerous areas, causing disrupted distribution of vital aid, cash assistance can help families protect themselves during this difficult situation.

Last year in Yemen, more than 167,800 families received cash assistance to buy masks, hand sanitizer, medicine, food, or clothes according to their priorities.

Since 2020, UNHCR’s cash assistance programme has reached close to 56,000 families (349,000 people) in Yemen.

Your Support is Vital in keeping UNHCR’s lifesaving aid programme running!

Please donate and help us cover the 70% funding gap in Yemen, so that vulnerable and innocent families like Fatima’s will have a chance to survive.