Yemen has been embroiled in conflict since early 2015. Already the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa region before the conflict escalated, now, according to the UN, Yemen is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Fighting has devastated the economy, destroyed critical infrastructure, and led to food insecurity verging on famine: In 2019, the UN estimated that 24.1 million people—80% of the population—was “at risk” of hunger and disease, of whom roughly 14.3 million were in acute need of assistance.
An estimated 17.8 million people were without safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million without adequate healthcare. As a result, Yemen has been grappling with mass outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diphtheria, measles, and Dengue Fever. Waves of currency depreciations in 2018 and 2019 have created inflationary pressure that exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, and disruptions to public infrastructure and financial services have severely affected private sector activity.
More than 40% of Yemeni households are estimated to have lost their primary source of income and, consequently, find it difficult to buy even the minimum amount of food. Poverty is worsening: Whereas before the crisis, it affected almost half the country’s population of about 29 million, now it affects an estimated three-quarters of it—71% to 78% of Yemenis. Women are more severely affected than men.
Economic and social prospects, both in 2020 and beyond, are uncertain, hinging critically on the political and security situation. Most recently, the compounded threats of continued conflict, the spread of COVID-19, extensive flooding, and locusts are pushing the country close to catastrophe. The affordability of food is a rapidly emerging threat to household welfare, as preexisting global food price increases and the depreciation of the Yemeni rial interact with COVID-19-related trade restrictions by food exporters.
Yemen’s import dependence is increasing because of the impact of desert locusts is having on the cropping season. A cessation of the violence and hope for political reconciliation and the reintegration of vital state institutions would improve the operational environment for the private sector, facilitating the reconstruction of the economy and the rebuilding of the country’s social fabric.
Last Updated: May 01, 2020