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Ten humanitarian crises and trends to watch in 2022

Kylee Pedersen/TNH

The 10 crises and trends listed here have our attention – and should demand yours – in 2022. 

They are in random order, as this is not a ranked list. Our aim is to offer a forward-looking view of some of the key issues likely to drive humanitarian needs over the next year. While we point to geographically specific emergencies, we also flag cross-cutting trends – from how the pandemic is turbo-boosting poverty and wider social inequity, to border crises spurred by Western nations’ hostile asylum policies.

This list is informed by our reporting from humanitarian hotspots around the globe – more than 60 countries in 2021 – and by our editors’ research and discussions with analysts, aid workers, and individuals whose lives have been upturned by conflict and disasters. 

Join The New Humanitarian for a special 10 Crises and Trends to Watch event in the new year.

The pandemic’s poverty and equality hangover

A man wearing a face mask walks past a fortified ATM machine during a partial lockdown in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on 21 August 2020.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has exposed massive inequalities within countries as well as between them. The beginnings of an economic turnaround in parts of the world in 2022 are only likely to make these divides even starker. The pandemic increased the percentage of people living in extreme poverty globally, ending a two-decade downward trend. That will make it even harder for countries already dealing with conflict, fragility, or widespread poverty to rebound, and it will drive new needs in places home to people who have not been traditional recipients of humanitarian aid.

Why we’re watching

COVID-19, with its lockdowns and layoffs, increased the rate of extreme poverty – those surviving on less than $1.90 a day – by an estimated 97 million people, from a global rate of 7.8 to 9.1 percent. While there are predictions that the poverty numbers may turn around again, it’s hard to see how gains will be made quickly in places that, despite promises and pleas from international bodies, still lack equitable vaccine access or are struggling to get out from under the weight of debt distress – some of it newly acquired during the pandemic – places like Zambia, Ghana, and Tunisia. The situation for those newly plunged into poverty may get better with time, but the economic effects will likely be felt the longest in the parts of the world that were already suffering before the pandemic.

Consider Nigeria. Before the pandemic, experts predicted that poverty would reach 96 million by 2030. Now, they put that figure at 112 million, almost one in two Nigerians. Around 20 million of those newly impoverished globally live in countries where the UN already has a humanitarian response plan. Case in point: hyperinflated Venezuela, where three quarters of the country’s 28 million people are now in extreme poverty – a 10 percent rise from last year. Others live in places where poverty is newly widespread, like Lebanon, where a downward economic spiral had begun before COVID-19 came calling, leaving Syrian and Palestinian refugees to feel the pain first. With the added pressures of the coronavirus and the 2020 explosion at Beirut’s port, these soaring needs have now stretched to most corners of society. 

Another, sadly predictable, blow to financial equality is that – across the board, from richer countries to poorer countries – it is women who have been hit the hardest by the economic losses. They are more likely than men to be employed in low-paid, precarious jobs like domestic work, food services, or the garment industry: among the first positions to go when cuts are made. Many have also been forced to drop out of the labour force to do unpaid care work – a long-running economic reality that the pandemic has thrown into stark relief.

Keep in mind

While government officials and others are looking at aid packages and international loans to boost economic recovery, some citizens are learning that they can’t rely on the state and are doing their best to help themselves. Various types of mutual aid have sprung up outside of the traditional support systems, with neighbours helping neighbours – for example, Chileans setting up soup kitchens in cities during lockdowns; and Native American tribes responding to pandemic-related mental health problems with new initiatives that bind people together.

Social media’s hate problem

We know that online hate has real world consequences – from inciting mass shootings, stabbings, and bombings, to teen suicides. But it’s also increasingly clear that it can contribute to the conditions that drive humanitarian needs, as we’ve seen in Ethiopia and Myanmar

Why we’re watching

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen confirmed that tweaks to the opaque algorithm of the world’s largest news provider amplify hate speech. Just as worrying, the platform’s internal systems aren’t very good at spotting and blocking it. Take Ethiopia: There has been an alarming rise in posts advocating ethnic violence, but even though they’ve been flagged by Facebook’s own monitoring, some accounts have remained active. The same is true in Myanmar. The company has struggled to police its own ban against online support for the military, which is accused of widespread human rights abuses since it took power in a February 2021 coup.

Election integrity is another issue. Social media gives authoritarian governments new ways to shape the political narrative – from paid trolls to bots and false news sites that confuse and disinform. Ahead of tense elections in the Philippines in 2022, social media companies have tried and failed to curb what Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa describes as an online “toxic sludge”. There are also concerns over hate speech in the run-up to polls in a deeply polarised Kenya.

Moderation alone doesn’t solve the problem. Because online extremists inhabit multiple platforms that span continents and languages, bypassing the regulation efforts of individual companies, hate is both fluid and resilient. When so-called “hate clusters” are attacked, they reconnect on less well regulated sites – the far-right website 8chan being a prime example – before leaking back to mainstream platforms.

Legislation to tackle the algorithms that optimise divisive posts – or, alternatively, to make the tech companies liable – has been tabled in the United States, the EU, Britain, and China. But there are tricky free speech concerns, and worries that risk-averse platforms would simply censor all but the most vanilla of content. That could block the pro-democracy good that social media can do – to the glee of internet-banning governments, from Nigeria to Turkey to Venezuela.

Look out for other recommendations being pushed with renewed vigour: from activism around stronger consumer privacy protections, to greater data transparency. Consumers, and some advertisers, are also demanding change. Afterall, research shows that hate makes people unhappy.

Keep in mind

Emotion-riling false news and hate speech travels farther and faster than real news. The targets of the violence it helps generate are disproportionately minority groups and women.

Afghanistan, Haiti, Myanmar: Political upheaval, humanitarian challenges

A group of women hold torches as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on 14 July, 2021.

Turmoil at the top is fuelling ever-rising needs on the ground in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Myanmar. These three countries saw seismic political shifts – the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the assasination of President Jovenal Moïse in Haiti, and the military coup in Myanmar – that not only worsened already tenuous crises, but will make emergency responses even more complex in 2022.

Why we’re watching

Each of these crises presents stark aid dilemmas, from donor reluctance to deal with the Taliban, to questions over humanitarian neutrality and how to engage with Myanmar’s junta (if at all), to the new challenge of grappling with Haiti’s gangs.

In Afghanistan, hunger is widespread and growing, the economy and public sectors are collapsing, and nearly the entire population may plunge below the poverty line in 2022. Humanitarian needs were dire long before, but Afghans are at the brink following the Taliban’s August 2021 surge and the international reaction to it. The donors that propped up post-9/11 regimes are running out of time to decide how to engage with the Taliban, and to find workarounds for getting billions in frozen funding flowing (issuing exemptions for Taliban sanctions was a start). Afghanistan’s emergency is also a crisis of rights – especially for women and girls who have found theirs scraped away under the Taliban. Gender-based violence is rising, women have fewer options for income and unequal healthcare or aid access (especially if female staff can’t work), and they sacrifice more to cope.

Like Afghanistan, Haiti was in crisis mode long before its political upheaval. But President Moïse’s killing pushed the country deeper into turmoil, and rising gang violence is making it even harder to respond to the growing humanitarian needs. The gang violence has displaced some 20,000 people, fanned new waves of migration, and shut down hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 percent of the population will need food aid well into 2022, driven in part by the political instability and a pair of August 2021 disasters – a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed some 2,200 people, and Tropical Storm Grace, which battered Haiti’s southern peninsula days later. 

The February 2021 military coup in Myanmar worsened long-simmering conflicts and ignited a nationwide civil disobedience movement (and an armed resistance). Humanitarian access, already volatile under the quasi-civilian governments of the past decade, is even more constricted. The military junta is launching increasingly violent crackdowns, often amid near-total internet blackouts. The topline figures are a sign of the humanitarian fallout since the coup: nearly 300,000 newly displaced, at least 1,300 civilians killed (and thousands more arrested), a tripling in the number of people who need emergency aid. The ground-level impacts are even clearer: struggling farmers; food shortages for families hiding in jungles; malnutrition in deteriorating bamboo shelters that badly need repair; and local aid workers – increasingly targeted by the military – steering clandestine aid trips under the cover of night. “From a humanitarian perspective, the situation has changed from complex to chaotic,” said a coordinator with a local NGO in Myanmar’s north.

Keep in mind

The legacies of colonialism, occupation, and empire-building echo in each country’s present-day instability. Homegrown solutions and demands for new approaches from local aid workers and civil society continue to find a voice. But the international side of the aid sector – powered by mainly Western donor budgets and top-down plans – has never been quick to embrace change.

West v the rest: Asylum roadblocks creating border crises

An image shows multiple tents set up along a city canal, under a bridge

Many Western democracies are carving out unprecedented exceptions to the right to seek asylum at their borders – systematically carrying out human rights violations in the process. Hardline deterrence policies turn what should be manageable movements of people into a cascading series of humanitarian crises at borders while reinforcing global inequality. 

Why we’re watching

During an ongoing manufactured migration crisis on the EU’s eastern frontier with Belarus, member states Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland have deployed troops, fortified their borders, and resorted to expelling asylum seekers and migrants from their territory – despite such pushbacks being illegal under international law. As a result, thousands of people have ended up stranded in dire humanitarian situations and subjected to further abuses by Belarusian security forces. Instead of reaffirming the right to seek asylum, the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, responded by introducing “provisional measures” that rights groups say set a dangerous precedent by weakening asylum protections. This pattern has been a familiar one in recent years, but it became increasingly normalised in 2021. Faced with “emergency situations” – from the pandemic itself to increasing numbers crossing their borders – Western democracies have responded by suspending and blocking people’s right to seek asylum. As a result, once-respected international refugee norms and laws risk being eroded. In many recent situations, stripping away the rights and legal protections of asylum seekers in search of safety and opportunity has resulted in humanitarian crises as people are left in limbo, often in dangerous conditions. That trend is likely to only intensify in 2022. Countries are increasingly brazen at leveraging migration to exert political pressure on neighbours who are keen to keep people out, and there is no sign that Western countries are prepared to dramatically change course on their border policies. Meanwhile, the factors pushing people to migrate are intensifying as vaccine inequality reinforces a vastly unequal economic recovery from the pandemic, which in turn foments desperation, discontent, and instability.

Keep in mind

The vast majority of displaced people are hosted in their home countries or neighbouring countries. When one country restricts access to its territory, it creates a domino effect where other countries become more reluctant to let refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in because they know it will be difficult for them to leave. This reinforces a situation where fragile states shoulder a disproportionate amount of the responsibility for caring for the displaced when they often have the least capacity to do so. The UN’s global compacts on refugees and migration, signed in 2018, were supposed to pave the way for more equitable burden-sharing, more safe and legal pathways for migration, and more efficient aid responses. Three years on, those goals appear as elusive as ever.

Unprecedented hunger

Roqia Qasqari, 47, who lives in Gero village in Afghanistan's Bamyan Province, inspects potatoes stored after the previous harvest. Snow was scarce over the winter, raising fears of a severe drought during 2021.

Up to 283 million people are short of food, an unprecedented level of hunger. It’s not just the huge numbers in need, but also the depth of the crises they face. Last year, we flagged the already rapidly deteriorating situation, but now as many as 45 million people are on the brink of famine – a scale of desperation unseen in recent times.

Why we’re watching

Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen are among the countries most in need, and will be familiar to readers of The New Humanitarian. Long-running conflict has pushed even more people into an “emergency” category of hunger, which means a likelihood of nutrition-related deaths. Extreme weather has also left its mark. Multiple droughts in Afghanistan and southern Madagascar have worn away rural people’s ability to cope. In parts of the Horn of Africa, the rains are expected to fail again early in the new year – for the fourth season in a row.

Aid agencies are warning that the goals of the Famine Prevention Compact – agreed by the G7 in May, and including smarter financing and a more effective response to crises – have not been met. Less than half of the money urgently needed to ward off famine has been received. That lack of action flies in the face of the pledges made at the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit in September.

Rising global food prices are an additional worry. Wheat and maize increased by 38 and 40 percent respectively in 2021 – to the highest levels seen in a decade – and prices are still climbing. Sharp rises in the cost of fertiliser, energy, shipping, and labour – driven by soaring gas prices and the economic recovery earlier in the year in industrialised countries – are also causing shortages and straining supply chains.* These costs are being passed on to consumers, but the pinch is more keenly felt in developing economies, where people spend a larger proportion of their incomes on food – and, again, they disproportionately affect women.

Rising prices will deepen existing urban and gendered poverty, meaning more domestic abuse, mental health concerns, and reduced opportunities for children. Migrants, refugees, and people living in informal settlements – the traditionally vulnerable – will feel the bite most keenly, so too the pool of unvaccinated “new poor” created by pandemic lockdowns. If there is a bright side, it’s that prices haven’t yet reached the levels seen in 2007 and 2011 that led to food riots in a number of countries. Looking further ahead, the UN food summit raised the profile of global food challenges and drummed up nearly $11 billion in pledges over the next five years to help the world learn to feed itself in ways that are more effective, more equitable, and greener – all of which is great but of little help to people in need now. 

Keep in mind

Up to $7 billion is needed to feed the 45 million people at risk of famine across 43 countries. Global cereal price increases yank up the cost of procuring emergency food on international markets, while fuel hikes and a global container shortage also inflate the logistics bill to reach those who are hungry.

Hired guns and their humanitarian costs

A soldier searches a man standing up, his back is to the camera.

Struggling governments are seeking new sources of support as they try to combat militant groups, from West Africa’s Sahel to coastal Mozambique and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But intervening armies and mercenary forces are often abusing human rights in ways that play into the hands of the jihadists; crowding out the aid groups trying to respond to the rising needs (three million are displaced in the Sahel alone); and competing amongst each other in geopolitical scrums that do nothing to address the fundamental drivers of conflict.

Why we’re watching

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan provided a salutary lesson in the limits of foreign military interventions against jihadist groups. But external support remains the order of the day for many governments battling extremists. In Mali, the transitional government has welcomed in members of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company with close links to the Kremlin. The deployment has incensed Mali’s main European partners, in particular France, which has troops stationed across the region fighting al-Qaeda and militants linked to the so-called Islamic State. Wagner Group’s track record in other conflict settings – from Libya and Syria to Central African Republic – suggests civilians will pay the price for its operations in Mali, though France’s soon-to-close Barkhane mission has plenty of stains on its reputation too. Abuses against civilians – also committed by donor-funded Sahelian armies – are boosting the cause of jihadist groups and increasing humanitarian suffering across the region. Military campaigns are also flattening fledgling dialogue efforts that local communities are forging with jihadist groups. 

Elsewhere, in Mozambique, the government has invited foreign armies into Cabo Delgado province after private military contractors – including the South Africa-based Dyck Advisory Group – committed a slew of alleged abuses during botched attempts to tackle a jihadist insurrection. A 1,000-strong Rwandan force arrived in July, irking regional nations who weren’t properly consulted despite readying their own troops for deployment through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc. The Rwanda/SADC intervention has made rapid gains in recent months, dislodging militants from their main bases and easing access for humanitarian agencies. But the militants are likely to rebound – as they have done in the Sahel – unless the local grievances that sustain them are properly addressed. Nor has increased military spending in Cabo Delgado been matched by additional humanitarian funds: Nearly 800,000 people remain displaced with limited food rations, shelter, and livelihood support. 

Meanwhile, a newly launched Ugandan cross-border operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militant group – based in eastern Congo – risks worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis. The ADF, which has links (albeit ill-defined) to IS, has a tendency to lash out against civilians when targeted by military actors, causing mass displacement in a region also grappling with Ebola epidemics.

Keep in mind

Aid groups are used to coordinating with military actors to ensure their missions are well understood and that they can securely access people in need. But civil-military coordination – or CMCoord as it is known – is difficult when there are multiple actors on the ground, including mercenary groups with little experience of humanitarian operations. In the Sahel, aid groups say their programmes are frequently reduced or suspended when military operations begin, and that the distinction between humanitarian and military personnel is often confused by soldiers engaging in aid interventions to build local acceptance.

The hidden health risks of climate change

The threats to health posed by rising temperatures are becoming clearer, from the widening footprint of infectious diseases and growing heat-related mortality, to undernutrition caused by water scarcity and food insecurity. 

Why we’re watching

The humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis go far beyond the physical damage of powerful storms or rising seas. In previous years, we’ve highlighted climate change as a risk multiplier, and underscored the ripple effect of repeat disasters as damages build. Now, rising health risks are emerging as hidden costs of climate extremes.

Health experts and humanitarians alike are ringing alarm bells as efforts to limit global temperature rise stall. A September 2021 editorial, published simultaneously in more than 200 medical journals, including The Lancet, called this failure to rein in soaring temperatures “the greatest threat to global public health”. The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières attended November’s COP26 – its first appearance at the UN-backed climate summit. “After years of witnessing how climate change has likely exacerbated health and humanitarian crises… we are compelled to speak out,” said MSF’s Carol Devine. 

The symptoms stretch across the globe. In remote Pacific nations, islanders report shifting rainfall patterns, unpredictable growing seasons, and extended drought. In turn, diets are changing as yields from traditional crops become more unreliable, and less nutritious food adds up to more risk of malnutrition, stunting, and non-communicable diseases. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever are showing up further afield: It has become an annual epidemic in mountainous Nepal, for example, and was recorded for the first time in Afghanistan in 2019. As with any crisis, there’s a distinct gender dimension as existing inequalities are laid bare. In Madagascar – edging towards what World Food Programme officials say may be the first climate change famine – more women are reportedly struggling to reach distant sexual and reproductive healthcare clinics because they can’t afford the transportation costs. In Bangladesh, saline intrusion from rising seas has depleted crops, forced women to travel longer distances to gather drinking water, and may be driving up maternal death risks. “Women are the ones who are left behind,” said Runa Khan, the head of Friendship, a Bangladeshi NGO. 

Keep in mind

Driven by COVID-19, conflict, and climate change, the cost of responding to the world’s crises will breach record levels yet again in 2022. Even the UN’s humanitarian aid chief admits the $41 billion tab won’t be fully funded, and the heads of major aid agencies warn that “the extent of the scale and impact of the climate crisis is more than humanitarian organisations can address”. That’s why there’s a renewed focus within the sector on prevention and reducing risks (and therefore, costs – including the rising health toll), and on anticipating crises and planning in advance. Can it be as transformative as many hope? 

Ethiopia: Endless obstacles to aid

Residents walk past an abandoned tank on a main road in Amhara region, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled recent fighting.

As Ethiopia’s conflict enters its second year, aid agencies are facing endless obstacles trying to reach the more than nine million people in need of assistance. Only a trickle of trucks carrying relief supplies has been allowed into the famine-threatened Tigray region, and a hostile federal government has suspended, deported, and besmirched aid officials and organisations that have dared to speak out. Various attempts to address the crisis have been rebuffed in a war that underscores the international community’s limited leverage to resolve domestic conflicts.

Why we’re watching

Humanitarian access (or lack of it) has become a defining feature of Ethiopia’s civil war, which started as a political dispute between the central government and leaders from the northern Tigray region. A months-long federal blockade – of aid and commercial supplies in Tigray – has been described by officials at the US Agency for International Development (a major donor to the Ethiopia relief effort) as “perhaps the most egregious humanitarian obstruction in the world”. The blockade has led to a hunger crisis not seen since the 2011 Somalia famine, and has been used by Tigrayan rebels to justify offensives in the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. International aid groups and Western governments have been accused of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – the ruling party in Tigray leading the rebellion – in a propaganda campaign that has helped Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recast the federal cause as anti-colonial. More than 20 humanitarian workers have been killed, dozens have been arrested, and high-ranking officials have been deported for allegedly “meddling” in Ethiopia’s affairs. Both sides of the conflict have, meanwhile, framed the war in existential terms, pushing recruits onto front lines in a military confrontation that currently ranks among the world’s largest and bloodiest.

The impact on civilians has been devastating: Federal forces and their allies have been accused of massacres, widespread sexual violence, and ethnic cleansing, while Tigrayan forces have been implicated in a string of abuses too. In recent weeks, the conflict has shifted as rebels retreat to their home region, opening up space for a possible ceasefire. But reconciliation will be tough while both sides refuse to recognise the other’s legitimacy, and as ideological divisions bubble away.

Keep in mind

Ethiopia’s problems extend far beyond Tigray: Border clashes have broken out between Afar and Somali regional states; rebels allied to the TPLF have captured swathes of Oromia; militia violence has claimed hundreds of lives in Benishangul-Gumuz; and a decades-old border dispute with Sudan is flaring over the disputed al-Fashaga region.

Latin America: Turbulent politics meets COVID fallout

Demonstrators hold a Colombian flag in Bolívar square in the center of Bogotá, Colombia, 1 May 2021

As Latin America tries to recover from some of the world’s worst health and economic blows from COVID-19, political shifts and polarisation look set to complicate the response to both existing and emerging humanitarian crises. Is the international aid sector ready to step up?

Why we’re watching

Until recently, Latin America was showing promising signs of falling poverty, improved literacy, better health, and longer lifespans among its populations. Then came the pandemic. Not only has Latin America fared badly against the virus itself – more than 30 percent of the world’s deaths from only 8.4 percent of the world’s population – but the economic repercussions are pushing millions into poverty. The UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2022 pointed to the sharp deterioration of conditions in the region and suggested it may be time for international assistance to be reassessed. “It is highly likely that the humanitarian community will be operating in a post-pandemic Latin America and the Caribbean for years to come,” it noted. This is hardly surprising. Hunger in the region, including in Brazil – until recently praised for its malnutrition-busting policies – has been rising faster than any other part of the world, while a “shadow pandemic” of gender violence still struggles to receive promised emergency funding. Against this backdrop, the region is undergoing a period of increasing polarisation, with COVID-19 accelerating calls for change and raising the appeal of political outsiders. Recent elections have trended towards anti-incumbency, and presidential polls in 2022 in Brazil and Colombia will be keenly watched for how candidates handle demands for greater social protection from already agitated electorates. From Chile to Honduras, shifts to the left following bitter election campaigns in 2021 provided renewed hope to voters that fairer distribution of power and income may be possible. However, across the region, heavily indebted governments are under pressure to spend big on recovery but face deeply divided electorates and obstructionist oppositions – all of which Latin America-watchers fear spells danger for democracy.

As well as being the most economically unequal region in the world, Latin America and the Caribbean is the second most disaster-prone. It is also still dealing with the exodus of six million Venezuelans escaping the country’s financial and humanitarian crisis (predicted to rise to 8.9 million by the end of 2022), not to mention mass migration from Central America, through Mexico, to the southern US border. In addition to a near-tripling over three years in the number needing humanitarian assistance, the UN’s 2022 overview noted that one regional response plan five years ago (Haiti) has now become six. That number looks set to grow.

Keep in mind

Calls are growing for more grassroots participation in decision-making, whether it’s Indigenous communities protecting the Amazon from deforestation or women’s groups addressing gender-based violence. As pandemic-era budgets are squeezed, a little more local knowledge can only help in a region prone to flagrant international miscalculations: Until recently, Venezuela was considered an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank.

Yemen: All eyes on Marib

What happens in the gas-rich and strategically important city of Marib could determine the future of Yemen’s nearly seven-year war – not to mention the future of hundreds of thousands of people in the line of fire, many of whom are already adding to the more than four million displaced and the nearly 21 million Yemenis the UN says need humanitarian assistance. 

Why we’re watching

Yemen has been a stalwart of this list for years, often because nothing major seems to change in a country where widespread hunger, ceasefire deals (remember the Stockholm deal? That was three years ago…), and health problems (cholera and coronavirus, to name just two) are now just a part of life. That makes it easy to forget that for many people it can still get worse. All eyes are now on an ongoing and intensifying offensive by Houthi rebels on the central province and city of Marib, putting civilians in danger and forcing thousands of people to flee each week. At the same time, air raids from the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition, which backs Yemen’s internationally recognised government but does not have the military presence on the ground it once did, are surging. It is not entirely clear how many people will have to go on the run if the Houthis enter Marib city – accurate statistics are hard to come by in Yemen. A reasonable estimate seems to be at least 500,000, given that Marib has long been seen as a safe haven for those who oppose Houthi rule. Aid groups warn that there are minimal medical facilities in the region to treat civilians injured by the war, and that with a (now predictable) shortfall in funds and difficulty accessing front lines, they will be unable to help everyone if the violence intensifies. Given its resource-rich location between the Houthi-controlled north and the government-run south, a Houthi victory in the city would shift the balance of power in their favour, putting the rebels in the box seat in any future peace talks.

Keep in mind

Whilst Marib may be the front line to watch, south Yemen is dealing with its own internal power struggle, and a months-long currency crash that has made people’s money worth even less, worsening food insecurity. As is so often the case in Yemen, people are rarely going hungry because there isn’t food in the shops or markets, but because they don’t have the money to buy it.

* This report was corrected on 2 January, 2022. The original version said rising food prices were caused in part by stalled economic recovery in industrialised countries. The amended article now notes it was economic recovery earlier in the year that helped push up prices. 

Join The New Humanitarian for a special 10 Crises and Trends to Watch event in the new year.

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