Yemen is back on our list for the third year in a row, and for good reason: Aid funding for what the UN still labels “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” is down, and violence expected to further complicate aid delivery – and there’s plenty to worry about.
Why We should keep Humanitarian
With six years of war coming up in March, game-changing ceasefire deals and peace talks – as mentioned in last year’s 10 crises to watch, and 2019’s too – are starting to feel like little more than a whole lot of talk. There has been some hard-won progress on prisoner exchanges – 1,056 detainees were freed in late October in the largest swap of the war. But while the December 2018 deal that ended a government-coalition offensive on Houthi rebels in Hodeidah is still technically in place, many parts of the so-called Stockholm Agreement have still not been implemented. And an already shaky deal to stop discord in the south was put in further peril at the very end of 2020, as a bombing at Aden’s airport appeared to target the arrival of a newly-formed cabinet. Meanwhile, fighting and forced displacement has escalated in the southern province of Marib, once a bastion of stability, not to mention Taiz and Hodeidah. At the same time, general economic decline (worsened by COVID-19) and a serious currency crash are forcing more and more people to cut down on what, and how often, they eat. Again, there are warnings of famine. But much like two years ago, the threshold for an official declaration is high, while good data is hard to come by. Another threat sits offshore: A decaying tanker could spill a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, causing an environmental disaster. Yemen is becoming a crisis where everything is going wrong, and where it’s harder and harder to see how things can be turned around.
In 2019, the UN appealed for $4.2 billion for the aid effort it leads in Yemen. It received over $3.6 billion; more than 85 percent of the ask. In 2020, even though needs were slightly up, it asked for less: $3 billion (plus extra for COVID-19 relief), of which it has seen only $1.9 billion, or 56 percent. Some donors are frustrated by aid diversion and obstruction, while others simply may not have as much money to give. Either way, aid agencies and NGOs say the result is that key programmes will be cut, and more of Yemen’s 30 million people will suffer.