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Six years of war devastates Yemen

MARCH 25, 2021

Silver Spring, Maryland—The 6-year war in Yemen has caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The country faces enormous challenges from the level of destruction of infrastructure by massive bombing and shelling in populated areas, as well as the dangerous contamination by explosive devices. The conflict provides a horrifying example of the long-term humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons used in populated areas. States must support the draft international agreement against urban bombing currently being negotiated to help end the suffering.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has devastated Yemen over the past six years. The conflict has claimed about 233,000 lives. Some people are direct victims of the violence. Indeed, more than 20,000 civilian deaths and injuries have been verified as a direct result of hostilities since 2015. Other people have died from indirect consequences, such as lack of health services and clean water after health facilities and water supply systems were largely destroyed by bombing and shelling; or lack of food due when destroyed roads are impassable for delivery trucks.

The conflict intensified during 2020, resulting in shocking levels of civilian suffering. By the end of October 2020, there were 47 front lines, up from 33 in January 2020. In recent weeks, violent combats have taken place in Marib, forcing thousands to flee. Many families who actually live in Marib have already faced multiple displacements from violence in recent years. They are stranded in overcrowded camps, and need access to shelter, protection, food, water, hygiene and health care.

Widespread use of landmines has been reported in several regions of the country. Landmines or improvised explosive devices killed or injured almost 1,100 civilians between 2018 to 2020. In 2020 alone, at least 1,300 civilians were affected in landmine or explosive remnant of war-related incidents (these incidents remain largely under-reported).

Humanity & Inclusion has treated at least 30,000 people, many of them victims of the conflict, since the beginning of its operations in 2015. By December 2019, more than 3,000 of them were victims of explosive weapons such as bombings, explosive remnants of war, or improvised explosive devices. Among the people helped are a large and unprecedented proportion of victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war. By December 2019, teams had helped 850 victims of such weapons.

The massive and repeated use of explosive weapons—especially those with wide area effects—in populated areas has exacerbated Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and will have a long-term impact. According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021, 20 million people (66% of the entire population) need humanitarian assistance, 16 million people are food insecure, and 3.6 million people are displaced. The economic disruption has inflated food prices. In recent months, the country has also been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural hazards such as flooding and locusts.

The level of contamination by explosive remnants of war in Yemen is likely to be extremely high due to the intensity of the conflict over the last 6 years. Should the conflict end today, incidents linked with the use of weapons are expected to last for decades and continue to impact civilians and prevent the return of the displaced to their homes.

"The level of destruction is staggering,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “NGOs face significant security and administrative constraints that considerably reduce our ability to assist. Humanitarian aid is unfortunately largely underfunded, with just half of the $3.8 billion need estimated by the United Nations so far pledged. States should not only support lifesaving humanitarian aid in Yemen, they should pressure parties to the conflict to lift the obstacles that impede humanitarian access and aid. We need nothing less to ensure the protection of civilians."

Humanity & Inclusion’s impact in Yemen

Humanity & Inclusion works in the governorates of Sana'a, Amanat al Asimah, Hajjah, Aden Lahj and Taiz, in nine health centers, and welcomes patients from all over the country.

Humanity & Inclusion has provided:

  • more than 35,000 crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility supports
  • psychological support to about 23,000 people
  • prostheses and orthotics to 520 people through a collaboration with the Sana'a Physiotherapy and Prosthesis Centre
  • education and training about early trauma response to more than 800 Yemeni health workers in Sana'a.

Diplomatic process to end bombing in urban areas

An Ireland-led diplomatic process to reach an international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas started in October 2019. So far, more than 70 States have been involved in drafting the international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Negotiations were put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but resumed earlier this year.

A final round of negotiation is scheduled for late spring/early summer in Geneva, depending on the outcomes of the global health situation caused by Covid-19. Then, the international agreement should be proposed to States for endorsement during a conference that should be scheduled depending on the outcomes of the global health situation caused by Covid-19. 

Humanity & Inclusion experts available for interviews:

  • Baptiste Chapis, HI's Disarmament, Crisis & Conflicts Advocacy Officer
  • Caroline Dauber, HI's Head of Mission in Yemen

Press contact

Mica Bevington
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +1 (202) 290 9264

About Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 30 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and voice are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion (formerly Handicap International) has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.”


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