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Midyear update: Yemen

A fledgling deal but little real progress

Photo of a young girl in Yemen with a watering can at a dry camp for displaced people.
A young girl fetches water at a displacement site in the Abs district of Hajjah governorate. (Ibrahim al-Ja’adi/TNH)

Remember those 10 crises and trends to watch in 2019 we presented back in January? We’ve been keeping an eye on them, reporting on how areas from climate change to political transitions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are impacting humanitarian needs and response. With 2019 just about half over, it’s time for an update.


Here’s what’s changed over the past six months, what we’re paying special attention to, and how it may affect the lives and livelihoods of people on the ground. Look for two updates every day this week, including today with Yemen and militancy in Africa.


Be sure to share your thoughts – and ideas for our continuing coverage – at [email protected] or @thenewhumanitarian

It has been six months since Yemen’s main warring sides hammered out a ceasefire deal for the northern port city of Hodeidah, but implementation has been sluggish at best. Elsewhere in Yemen, the violence is getting worse, and the UN says there are “famine-like conditions in dozens of places” across the country. 

What’s new:

The negotiations on how to carry out what has become known as the Stockholm Agreement have been slow and contentious, and a recent unilateral Houthi withdrawal from the Hodeidah ports was heavily criticised by the rebels’ opponents, namely the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the internationally recognised (but mostly exiled) government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Still, it’s a small bit of progress in a conflict that is intensifying on multiple other front lines. We said it in January and it’s still true: there are more than two sides to this war, and as fractures inside the main alliances grow, so do local grievances. Southern separatists still want more of a voice in Yemen’s future, and there has been little respite for Taiz, a city and province that, despite talk of de-escalation in Sweden last December, has had little respite from violence in more than four years of war.

Why we’re watching

In the midst of Yemen’s complicated chaos are 24 million people who the UN says need some kind of aid – that’s 80 percent of the country’s population. A wave of cholera in the first part of this year now seems to be on the wane, but many of the hardest-hit areas were places with heavy fighting or displacement. That’s no coincidence: a decimated healthcare system and a destroyed economy plus conflict make for a deadly combination. Malnutrition makes a person more susceptible to cholera and other diseases.

Keep in mind 

Yemen is more than just Hodeidah. The city is key to imports in the north (and to averting famine), but needs in the country as a whole are so great it garnered the UN’s biggest ever ask ($4.2 billion) for one country in January, followed the next month by a record-breaking pledge from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ($1 billion) that has still not been fulfilled.

(TOP PHOTO: A young girl fetches water at an informal camp for displaced people in the Abs district of Yemen's Hajjah province.)

Read all our midyear updates: Ten humanitarian crises and trends to watch in 2019

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