From the Field

Yemen war: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

The Yemen war has created the world’s largest humanitarian emergency. About 24 million people in Yemen need aid, 80% of the country’s population. More than half of the people in need are children.

Conflict that began in 2014 as an ethnic Houthi uprising against the Yemen government has grown into a regional proxy war involving major Middle East political forces. The combined death toll from conflict and disease is estimated at 235,000 people.

Yemen is a Middle Eastern country located at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula.
Yemen is a Middle Eastern country located at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. (©2018 map courtesy of reliefweb.com)

In addition to horrific violence, people are suffering from hunger and deprivation. Among the 20 million people facing acute food insecurity, 2 million children under age 5 are severely malnourished. Millions lack access to basic healthcare, clean water, and sanitation, and about 4 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Different factions control three areas of Yemen, and parties to the conflict often prevent aid from reaching populations in their area of control.

War and factionalism have reversed Yemen’s human development by more than 20 years. Yemen was already a poor country, with 47% of its population living in poverty in 2014, according to the U.N. Development Program. By the end of 2019, the poverty rate in Yemen exceeded 74%.

You can deliver hope and practical help when disasters strike.

FAQs: What you need to know about the Yemen war

Explore frequently asked questions and facts about the conflict and resulting humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and learn how you can help people in need.

Fast facts: What is happening in Yemen?

  • Conflict from the civil war engulfs most of the country.
  • With economic collapse, food prices have soared.
  • 20 million people lack enough food.
  • People continue to flee violence; more than 400,000 people were displaced in 2019.
  • The volatile security situation makes it difficult to supply aid to people in need.

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When and how did the war in Yemen start?

A Houthi insurgency was long under way in northern Yemen when the Yemeni government was toppled in the Arab spring uprising of 2011. Houthis went on to capture the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. Another pivotal date of the conflict was Saudi Arabia’s launch of missile attacks in 2015.

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How has the crisis affected children?

Conflict is devastatingly affecting Yemeni children:

  • Children are being killed and maimed and losing family members and friends.
  • About 400,000 children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition.
  • Cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhea are on the rise.
  • Schools and hospitals have been damaged and closed.
  • When the school term began last September, 2 million school-age children did not attend.
  • Children are at risk of child marriage and recruitment into armed groups.

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Why is hunger prevalent in Yemen?

Even before the conflict began, poverty and hunger were rampant in Yemen. About 90% of the country’s food was imported. Now that much of the commercial trade is cut off, it’s difficult for farmers to get seeds and fertilizer, and most people can’t afford to buy what they need. Even aid agencies struggle to import and transport goods. This perfect storm of food insecurity led to near-famine conditions in 2018 and 2019.

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How can I help the Yemeni people?

Here are some ways you can help bring hope to people in Yemen:

  • Pray: Lift up children, families, and humanitarian workers who come to their aid.
  • Give: Help World Vision meet the urgent needs of children and families.

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What is World Vision doing to help in Yemen?

In November 2019, World Vision began working with the U.N. and other aid agencies to support aid for children living in poverty and crisis in Yemen. Partnering with ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, World Vision’s work in 2020 will include the rehabilitation of community water systems to include 26 water access points, 15 manholes, and a septic tank. Hundreds of children at a school near Aden, in southern Yemen, will benefit from this program.

We also plan to scale up our activities in water and sanitation, health, livelihoods, and child protection.

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Yemen crisis timeline

Located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has been a crossroads of culture and trade since ancient times. It became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s, followed by British occupation until 1967.

1969 to 1990Yemen divides into northern and southern nations, the southern part oriented toward the Soviet bloc. Internal conflict continues.

2000 — Al Qaeda militants attack the U.S.S. Cole naval vessel in Yemen’s Aden harbor, killing 17 Americans.

2004 to 2010 — Houthi rebels who control the north keep up an insurgency against the central government in the south.

2011 — Longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh hands over authority to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in response to an Arab Spring uprising. Hadi is unable to maintain control.

2014 — Iran-backed Houthis take control of most of Sanaa, the southern seat of government, in August and reject government offers to address their grievances.

2015 — President Hadi is forced to flee the country in March. Then in May, a Saudi Arabia­­-led coalition of mainly Gulf Arab states enters the conflict by conducting airstrikes against the Houthis and imposing a naval blockade.

2018 — Separatists supported by the United Arab Emirates seize Aden, a major southern city.

2019 — U.N. efforts lead to a power-sharing agreement between separatists and the Yemen government to end the conflict in southern Yemen.

2020 — Progress stalls on troop withdrawals because of mistrust among warring parties.

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Jesse Leaupepe, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church member, places World Vision Family Emergency Kits into cars during a distribution of relief supplies at his church in Burien, Washington, USA. The kits contain food, first-aid antiseptic spray, hand sanitizers, and school supplies. World Vision partnered with a local school district to identify families greatest need.
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Jesse Leaupepe, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church member, places World Vision Family Emergency Kits into cars during a distribution of relief supplies at his church in Burien, Washington, USA. The kits contain food, first-aid antiseptic spray, hand sanitizers, and school supplies. World Vision partnered with a local school district to identify families greatest need.
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