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Leading up to Yemen: The Forgotten People

This post is part of the Pathways to Peace Seminar Series. Registration for Yemen: The Forgotten People is now open.

‘Yemenis are not starving, they are actively being starved first by their own warmonger leaders, and second by the foreign states which feed this war with weapons and ammunition and allow the blockade of food and fuel’

The conflict

Since uprisings began in Yemen in 2011, the UN has been actively engaged in helping find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The 2011 uprisings led to the formal departure of Saleh, and his replacement by his former Vice President Hadi. During the transition period between 2012 and 2014, the Huthi movement allied with their former enemy Saleh and began to take control of areas further south of their stronghold. After a brief stopover in the temporary capital Aden, Hadi took refuge in Saudi Arabia.

In March 2015, the conflict escalated with the Saudi-led collation starting aerial attacks on Yemen turning the civil war into an international conflict with 40,000 causalities more than 2,500 of which are children and 1,900 are women. In 2015, two rounds of peace talks were convened in Switzerland and in April of 2016, a temporary cessation of hostilities came into effect. The UN continues to promote the adoption of a durable cessation of hostilities.

Where does the UK fit in?

While being one of the biggest aid and relief ‘ donors’ to Yemen, the UK has also agreed weapons sales worth 3.3 billion to Saudi Arabia and there is evidence that the cluster bombs dropped in civilian areas of Yemen were of British manufacture. While there has been increasing discomfort in parliament and beyond, the May government is unlikely to stop weapons sales to allies who are expected to save the British economy from recession.

The consequences

Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East when the conflict escalated and it was already facing a humanitarian crisis stemming from many years of poverty and instability.


An estimated 14 million people are food insecure and the coming famine will have serious consequences with people in some areas of Yemen already dying from starvation.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene

An estimated 14.4 million people require assistance to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation, including 8.2 million who are in acute need. This represents an increase of 8 per cent since late 2014, and the severity of needs has intensified.


An estimated 14.8 million people lack access to basic healthcare, including 8.8 million living in severely under-served areas. Medical materials are in chronically short supply, and only 45 per cent of health facilities are functioning. As of October 2016, at least 274 health facilities had been damaged or destroyed in the conflict, 13 health workers had been killed and 31 injured.


About 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished, including 462,000 children under 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This represents a 63 per cent increase since late 2015 and threatens the lives and life-long prospects of those affected.

Shelter and essential items

An estimated 4.5 million people need emergency shelter or essential household items, including IDPs, host communities and initial returnees. Ongoing conflict-related displacements, as well as initial returns to some areas, are driving these needs.


About 2 million school-age children are out of school and need support to fulfil their right to education. More than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

Livelihoods and community resilience

An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services. Communities require support to promote resilience, including clearance of landmines and other explosives in up to 15 governorates.

The UN appeals for USD 2.1 billion for humanitarian work in Yemen this year to help alleviate some of these consequences.

Want to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about the conflict in Yemen, UN House Scotland is organising a conference on Yemen on Thursday May 18th which will include a film screening highlighting the use of US/UK weapons in the conflict, a series of speakers followed by a Q&A and a photography exhibition.

Register for this event.

[1] See Open Democracy (26 March 2017) The war in Yemen: two years old and maturing?

Images courtesy of Thana Faroq.

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