Across Yemen 24 million people are in need of humanitarian aid and 9.9 million are at risk of starvation. The nation is also facing one of the biggest cholera outbreaks on record, with more than one million cases reported.
Tearfund’s News Editor, Andrew Horton, spoke with a Tearfund partner to get unique insights about the Yemen crisis, and find out more about the challenges the Yemeni people face.
Yemen has been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. But from your experience of living there, how bad is it?
When you look at the statistics, it’s clearly bad. But what makes it really bad is when you have friends, you have relatives, when you have people that you work and live with, and they don't know where they can go with the pain they have. So I think it becomes even worse when you start to connect it to real life and to real people.
How much of a factor is Yemen’s geographic location in the crisis?
Yemen is isolated. There's water around part of it and there's desert around the rest. And so that makes it, of course, more challenging. People feel they don’t have a voice. If you consider the media coverage with other countries that have crises, Yemen just doesn’t get as much attention. It's much worse than it's being portrayed – it's heartbreaking. It's devastating.
How hard is it for Tearfund partners and other humanitarians to work in Yemen?
At first you will always face challenges. So you have to prove over time that you are neutral, that you're impartial and that you apply those principles from the beginning, and don't change them – to demonstrate integrity from the start. But at the same time, respecting cultural factors and values to somehow create that acceptance by the communities where you work. But it can be quite a rollercoaster: some days you’re accepted, the next you’re viewed badly.
I think the advantage in us working with Tearfund is that we are able to engage in areas where maybe other humanitarian groups won’t go because they are considered to be insignificant or not known. And I think this is the advantage. Tearfund is known.
How are the Yemeni people coping with this crisis?
There is a huge sense of fatigue. The biggest challenge is anything from depression to burn out. I think in the beginning of the crisis people were looking for hope in their family and their social groups, which is very important in Yemen. But now families are breaking up and so social and family support is being destroyed. That is unusual for this society as community accountability and social support is typical for Yemenis.
'The key is to help Yemenis restore their sense of identity and community.'
How are the younger generations coping with the crisis in Yemen?
For many young people in Yemen they have always known war and conflict. What they are not familiar with is that this crisis is taking everything away that they could dream of.
They feel robbed of purpose and identity, and that is the biggest crisis. The war is also making them vulnerable and exposed to people who come with harmful ideologies and radicalism. So even though young people are open-minded and questioning, we're also seeing some of them being radicalised and recruited into armed groups.
What could bring peace?
I think the key is to help Yemenis restore their sense of identity and community. It’s strong communities that can foster peace and reconciliation. People now feel disconnected from their communities.
What is your hope for the country?
I believe the Yemeni people are open to receive help from people that they know and trust, who are not coming with an agenda, but with love, hope, understanding and help.
I really hope that we demonstrate to the Yemeni people that they're worthy of our help because of who they are, not because they are victims or ‘a project’.
And I think this is an opportunity for Tearfund because you are driven by your values more than by anything else. And our partnership is driven by values. I think the younger generations will recognise and embrace that mentality. This is my hope.
We weep with those who are weeping in Yemen. Bring peace to this nation and restore hope to its people. Comfort the broken hearted and heal the sick. Thank you for the courage and commitment of our partners, who work in such challenging circumstances. Be a lamp to their feet, and a light to their path.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As the Yemen crisis grows worse by the moment, please also consider giving to our Yemen Appeal.
(Photo credit: Mohammed Jamal/DEC)