The world’s worst humanitarian crisis

Humanity & Inclusion (which operates under the name Handicap International in Yemen) works in eight health centers and hospitals in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, where we provide rehabilitation care and psychological support, and distribute mobility aids such as crutches and wheelchairs. The conflict and the blockade imposed in November 2017 by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has had a devastating impact on the population. Maud Bellon, the director of HI's programs in Yemen, describes the situation.


The wounded come from the different front lines and arrive in waves, depending on how fierce the fighting is. Most are injured in explosions, by gunfire, etc. We also treat large numbers of road accident victims and amputees. Because hospitals are so crowded, medical staff send patients back immediately after surgery, unless the patient has enough money to stay. The main problem is also the great difficulty in transporting injured people from the front lines to hospitals, the cost of transport and medical expenses.

Humanitarian programs in Aden

I recently spent several days in Aden because we’re hoping to open new humanitarian programs in the city and in the governorates of Taizz and Lahj next January. Aden is not the target of violent attacks, unlike other cities such as Hoddeidah in the east of Yemen, where the fighting is extremely violent, or Sa'ada in the north, which is being bombed almost every day.

Aden is a dangerous city, but more because of a surge in criminal activity and protests against rising prices.

The number of armed groups has increased significantly. There are regular attacks and successful assassination attempts on local leaders. The government of Aden is divided into two rival camps.

The blockade imposed in November 2017

One year ago, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on the country’s imports. Fuel is now only available through alternative channels and is more expensive. The price of food, gas, etc. has increased, making it nearly impossible for a Yemeni family to live a normal life.

The fierce fighting that broke out earlier this year in Hoddeidah—the port through which nearly 80% of Yemen's imports and most of its humanitarian aid pass—has also worsened the crisis and further weakened millions of Yemenis who are already struggling to survive.

Although the country imports almost all of its food, as a result of the combined effect of the conflict and blockade, 18 million people—60% of the country's population—are food insecure. In many areas, it is very difficult to access safe drinking water, which has led to an outbreak of cholera in recent weeks.

HI’s response

At the moment, our team is focusing on our humanitarian operations on Sana’a. Since 2014, we’ve been providing rehabilitation care, psychological support and mobility aids (prostheses, crutches, wheelchairs, etc.). Over the past three years, we have supplied rehabilitation assistance to 20,000 people, psychosocial support to 17,000 people, and mobility devices to 9,500 people. 60% of the people we treat have been injured in the conflict, car accidents, and the like. We also recently implemented a program to distribute financial assistance to nearly 600 families. Learn more about our work in Yemen.

The security situation in Sana'a

The fighting is mainly concentrated on the outskirts of Sana’a and there is sporadic bombing. One team had to make an emergency about-turn because of bombing close to the hospital they were traveling to. The city's airport was attacked recently. The extreme volatility of the situation has made the safety of HI’s teams a constant concern of ours.

Key facts about the humanitarian crisis

  • November 5-6 2017, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition imposed a total blockade on airports, seaports, and land borders in Yemen.
  • Several air and sea ports have since partially reopened.
  • Twelve million people are malnourished.
  • More than 16 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene.
  • The value of the local currency, the Yemeni Rial, fell sharply in 2018, putting many goods and essential items—health, food, housing—out of most people’s reach.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 13,500 cases of cholera in October 2018, and warned of the threat of a new epidemic.