How you can help people trapped in Yemen's humanitarian crisis

The World
Updated on
A malnourished boy lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a feeding center at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, June 27, 2020. 

Editor's note 6/29/2020: The World is a public media organization covering the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The World does not accept donations for humanitarian relief in the country. The organizations below do. The radio story above aired in 2017.

People in Yemen were already on the verge of famine when COVID-19 began to spread across the country in April 2020. For more than five years, Yemenis have struggled with growing poverty, disease and homelessness brought on by a war that continues to be fought on multiple fronts. The number of dead from the conflict in Yemen topped 100,000 last year.

On June 5, the United Nations' head of humanitarian operations in Yemen, Lise Grande, said the death toll from the pandemic could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger."

Related: Yemen faces spread of COVID-19 'with no health care system at all'

Yemen produces little of its own food and fuel, so Yemenis rely on imports to survive. According to UN estimates, 15.9 million Yemenis — more than half the country's people — wake up hungry every day, and in the absence of food assistance, this number would rise to 20 million.

But international funding is dropping off. On June 2, a UN-sponsored donor conference brought in $1.35 billion, just half of what was raised last year. In the meantime, 12 million children across Yemen still need humanitarian assistance to survive.

So how can people help them?

The World surveyed journalists, humanitarians and Yemeni citizens to come up with this shortlist of aid groups — some small and local, others huge and global — with proven records of helping families in Yemen. Each is helping Yemenis survive what the United Nations has called the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. We first posted this list in 2017, and we continue to update it.

Humanitarians who live and work in Yemen

Fatik al-Rodaini has been called a hero by Yemenis. He collects funds, buys food from local vendors, and creates batches of food (the term of art is "baskets") for families who his group has identified as needy. These days there is no shortage of need.

Yemen Hope and Relief
Ahmad Algohbary rescues children suffering from severe malnutrition. Families request his help, and he uses donated funds to transport and house them for weeks while their children are treated at nutrition clinics in major Yemeni cities.

Organizations whose mission is to help Yemenis

Yemen Aid
This group, founded by a Yemeni American, provides assistance and resources to Yemeni people, regardless of their race, political affiliation, ancestry or religion, in order to positively change, and ultimately save, lives.

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
This charity, based in Washington State, provides help and support to Yemeni families in desperate need. Through a network of volunteers in-country, YRRF reaches out to needy families not only in urban areas, but also remote villages and refugee camps. YRRF is registered in the US as a 501(c)3 and in Yemen as a charity organization.

Global NGOs that provide services in Yemen

The International Committee of the Red Cross has a well-organized operation on the ground in Yemen, efficiently delivering food, clean water and essential household items. In 2019 alone, the ICRC assisted with food aid to more than 650,000 people there, and it provided more than 5 million Yemenis with clean water through water and sanitation programs. The group has been outspoken in its call for an end to hostilities, working with all sides of the conflict.

International Rescue Committee 
The International Rescue Committee provides lifesaving emergency aid, clean water and medical care to millions of people in Yemen affected by violent conflict and a growing health crisis. The IRC is training heath workers, deploying mobile health teams and supporting health facilities with protective gear and proper water and sanitation services to fight COVID-19. It accepts donations for its Yemen mission here.

Since 2008 this Rome-based organization has provided health care and protection of the most vulnerable Yemenis in both the North and the South of the country, with special attention now to the spread of COVID-19. INTERSOS addresses unmet human needs and brings aid to the most remote and hard-to-reach locations in the country. It is registered as a 501(c)3 organization and has a US portal for donations.

Médecins Sans Frontières(Doctors Without Borders) 
MSF first worked in Yemen in 1986 and has been consistently present in Yemen since 2007. MSF runs lifesaving medical programs across the country that answer to the needs of Yemeni people who struggle every day to access medical care due to the ongoing conflict and the COVID-19 outbreak. MSF currently works in 12 hospitals and health centers across the country and provides support to a further 20 health facilities in 13 governorates.

Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps has been in Yemen since 2010 providing vulnerable families and communities with access to food and clean drinking water. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy Corps has continued to reach people impacted by the ongoing conflict with food assistance, clean water and hygiene support to help them stay healthy.

MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station)
MOAS is currently working in Yemen with its local partner ADRA to supply specialist famine relief products and containers of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to the Aden region. The supplies are distributed by its partners through the established health cluster and nutrition pipeline.  

Norwegian Refugee Council
NRC responds to emergency needs in Yemen by providing communities with resources, services and information that enable self-reliance and preserve dignity. One distinguishing feature of NRC's approach is that it distributes cash, giving Yemenis the ability to buy the basics. It is also one of the first responders on the ground for families fleeing their homes, providing rapid food, hygiene and shelter assistance.

Global humanitarian organization Oxfam and its local partners have provided assistance to more than three million people across Yemen since July 2015. Oxfam provides clean water and sanitation services and supports families and small business owners with cash payments, cash for work programs and food vouchers so that they can support local markets. In response to COVID-19, Oxfam is working with local organizations and community health volunteers to educate people in the most vulnerable communities about how to protect themselves and help to slow the spread of the virus. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund, in collaboration with local authorities, non-governmental organizations and community partners, is working in all parts of Yemen to respond to the needs of children throughout the country, providing, shelter, sanitation, education, health and nutrition services to help children survive and grow to their full potential. Surveys by UNICEF are an important gauge of the seriousness of Yemen's humanitarian crisis.

World Food Program
The UN World Food Program (WFP) began providing food aid to Yemenis long before the current war. Its logo can be seen on sacks of flour in homes throughout the country. As conditions have worsened, WFP has dramatically stepped up its efforts, now reaching more than 12 million people per month. In addition, WFP runs malnutrition programs for women and children in more than half of Yemen’s districts, and has a history of helping other organizations respond to humanitarian needs in Yemen.

Advocacy groups that work to end the war in Yemen

Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Friends Committee on National Legislation lobbies Congress and the White House to advance peace, justice, opportunity and environmental stewardship. It has campaigned tirelessly to urge the US to withdraw its support from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights
This group is headquartered in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Mwatana programs defend and protect human rights. Its researchers conduct field investigations to detect and stop human rights violations. The organization also attempts to provide support and justice for victims, to hold accountable those in violation of human rights, and to help craft legislation and policies that prevent such violations.

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