Crisis in Yemen

In Yemen, a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. 

In its sixth year of civil war, Yemen is on the brink of social collapse. Eighty percent of the population — 24 million people, including roughly 12 million children — are in need of humanitarian assistance. Cholera is endemic. Over 2 million children are malnourished. Some 1.7 million children have been driven from their homes by violence. Two-thirds of girls are pushed into marriage before the age of 18. 

COVID-19 has compounded their suffering. Health services, already strained, are buckling. Children are no longer learning since schools and Child-Friendly Spaces closed to prevent the spread of the virus. In the south, the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity is expected to increase from two million to over 3 million in the coming months. 

“A dangerous combination of conflict, economic hardship, food scarcity and a crumbling health system has pushed millions of children in Yemen to the brink, and the COVID-19 crisis could make things even worse,” said Sherin Varkey, UNICEF’s acting Representative in Yemen. “More and more young children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished and requiring urgent treatment. Increased and sustained support is vital if we are to save these children’s lives.”

Yemen's humanitarian needs have never been more acute, or funding more constrained. Some 8.4 million Yemenis who depend on emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) are in immediate danger of losing all access to safe water and the sanitation and handwashing facilities critically needed to stop transmission of COVID-19. 

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Here's what UNICEF is doing to help:

UNICEF has been on the ground in Yemen since the conflict began, leading the way to provide water, nutrition, education and protection to children and families while collaborating closely with partners to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable children. Four million people — nearly half of them children — depend directly on UNICEF for emergency WASH services. They are among Yemen's most vulnerable, battered by conflict, disease and internal displacement. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, UNICEF has shipped over 33,000 N95 respirators, 33,000 face shields and 18,000 gowns — crucial personal protective equipment needed by front line workers. But this represents just 5 percent of the COVID supplies UNICEF requires.

As of June 2020, UNICEF's $479 million appeal to sustain basic essential services for children in Yemen was only 38 percent funded. The most urgent and critical funding gap is for emergency WASH operations. To keep these vital services running through the end of the year, UNICEF requires $110 million. That funding will allow UNICEF to:

  • provide fuel to operate water pumping stations
  • de-sludge sewage
  • maintain crumbling water and sanitation infrastructure
  • distribute basic family hygiene kits that include soap, to prevent the spread of cholera and COVID-19

Children in the heart of the world's worst humanitarian disaster need help. Funding Yemen's WASH needs and COVID-19 response is critical to their survival. UNICEF appeals to donors to step up and dig even deeper to support this lifesaving work.


“The impact of the conflict in Yemen runs deep and has not spared a single child,” says UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere. “Mind-boggling violence, high levels of poverty and decades of conflicts, neglect and deprivation, are putting a heavy strain on Yemeni society, tearing apart its social fabric — fundamental for any society and especially for children.”

Food for Yemen’s Malnourished Children
“I used to work as a carpenter, and live in a rented house, my life was fine,” says a father from Yemen. But after five years of war, he doesn’t have a job and two of his daughters are malnourished. Some 325,000 other children in Yemen are severely so. Here’s how UNICEF is helping.
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