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Yemen on the Brink

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.

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.


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.

Donate Now



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.