AS Yemen enters its tenth year of war, its people face renewed airstrikes and a deepening economic crisis that risks pushing millions into starvation, Oxfam has warned.

This week marks nine years since the escalation of the conflict. A temporary UN-brokered truce expired in 2022 and, whilst it has largely held, recent Houthi military activity in the Red Sea and US and UK led air strikes against the north of the country are damaging the prospects of a lasting peace and risk further instability in the region.

The human cost of war

The war in Yemen has devastated the country. Over 19,000 people have been killed and millions more forced to flee their homes. More than 18 million people – over 50 per cent of the population – need humanitarian assistance. Yemen remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions on the brink of famine. Almost half of children under five in Yemen (over 2.5 million) suffer from chronic malnutrition, 21 per cent of whom suffer severe stunting. Due to a sharp decline in funding, The World Food Programme (WFP) has had to pause food assistance for 9.5 million people since November 2023 and malnutrition services for 2.4 million people since January this year. Without new funding, Yemen could witness further devastating rates of food insecurity and malnutrition.

The healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals lack essential supplies, and many healthcare workers have gone without salaries for years. Outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, and other diseases pose a constant threat, particularly to those living in rural areas.

Economic crisis

Yemen’s economy is in tatters. Rounds of currency depreciation and increases in the cost of fuel and other key commodities, have pushed millions into poverty. And the war – alongside the ravages of climate change – has severely crippled agricultural production. There are now fears that the food security situation is likely to worsen further from June, the peak of the lean season.

Recent tit-for-tat measures imposed by all parties have already begun to affect money transfers between the north and south, upon which many Yemenis are reliant for survival.

Prospects for peace

The recent militarisation of the Red Sea now signifies a worrying escalation in the conflict. There have been reports of casualties and thousands of livelihoods in Hudaydah governorate have already been affected due to the disruption of the fishing industry. Vital shipping lanes could also be impacted, hampering imports into Yemen, and further destabilising the region.

Proscribing or designating the Houthis – a key party to the conflict, which controls territory where most of the Yemeni population live – will only make it harder to secure a sustainable and inclusive peace. Further extreme sanctions could endanger both imports of food and essential commodities upon which Yemen is almost fully reliant, and the operation of humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam.

Ferran Puig, Oxfam Country Director in Yemen, said “The recent escalation of violence in Yemen should shame all parties and the international community at large. The last thing Yemen needs is further conflict. Nine years of war has cost the people of Yemen their lives and livelihoods. It is past time to bring an end to this war. All parties and the international community need to work much harder to bring about a lasting, inclusive peace.”

Increased humanitarian aid is crucial to prevent widespread famine and disease outbreaks. Doubling diplomacy to acheive comprehensive peace, ensuring adquate funding and allowing unimpeded humanitarian access are essential steps.

More broadly, a permanent ceasefire in Gaza is urgently needed – not only to save lives and prevent further suffering among Gazans – but also to reduce the chance of further escalation in Yemen and across the region.

* Source: Oxfam GB