Yemen: The human cost of war

Three years after a Saudi-UAE military alliance began bombing the country, aid groups say Yemen is hanging by a thread.

INTERACTIVE Yemen human cost of war - OUTSIDE IMAGE

Despite more than three years of war, Yemen, the scene of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, still struggles for its fair share of the world’s attention.

Since March 2015, the Saudi-UAE military alliance has carried out more than 16,000 air raids, almost one-third of which have struck non-military sites.

These attacks have targeted weddings and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.

According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. However, analysts say the number hasn’t been updated in years and the death toll is likely to be much higher.


During the best of times, many Yemenis struggled to make ends meet. Now, most can barely feed themselves.

The UN says the conflict poses a grave risk to the war-battered population and has described the situation as “looking like the apocalypse”.

According to UNICEF, more than 22 million Yemenis, 78 percent of the population, need humanitarian assistance every day.

That figure includes a staggering 11 million children, a number greater than the entire population of Switzerland.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.8 million under the age of five children suffer from acute malnutrition, including 500,000 children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition.


Access to clean water and sanitation

According to the UN agency OCHA, there is a strong possibility of a third wave of cholera due to contaminated food and drinking water brought about by the collapse of the public health system. 

Cholera, which can kill within hours if left untreated, is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholera. 

It is waterborne and spreads quickly in areas where sanitation is poor and access to clean drinking water is lacking.

Since April 2017, there are have been almost 1.1 million suspected cases of cholera with 21 of 22 governorates affected.

According to OCHA, there have been at least 2,310 deaths associated with the disease.


Food security

According to the World Bank, the war and its economic effect are driving the largest food security emergency in the world.

There has been a significant drop in food imports which had forced most Yemenis to rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

The strategic seaport of Hodeidah, about 175km west of Sanaa, used to be a key conduit for much-needed food and medicine imports prior to Houthi rebels taking the city over.

Before the war, Yemen imported around 90 percent of its wheat and all of its rice to feed its population of about 28 million, and around 70 percent of these imports passed through Hodeidah.

But imports have since dwindled, leaving millions unsure of when their next meal will come.

According to UN estimates, around 8.4 million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation, and do not know where their next meal will come from.


Since the start of the war, the unemployment rate has shot above 50 percent, with nearly 50 percent of the population (PDF) now loving on less than two dollars a day.


Economic crisis

The Yemeni rial has lost nearly two-thirds of its value against the US dollar since 2015.

While the official exchange rate is 250 Yemeni riyals to the dollar, the unofficial market rate is in excess of 600.

Soaring prices have put some basic commodities out of reach for many Yemenis and the central bank has struggled to pay public sector salaries on which many depend as foreign exchange reserves dwindle.

Source: Al Jazeera