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Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and one of the least-developed countries in the world. Following the ouster of long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh in early 2012, the stability of the government and the livelihoods of its citizens remain extremely precarious. Yemen’s population faces a high cost of living, significant unemployment, scarce water resources, and a deepening food crisis. Public services are also largely absent in some areas. Repeated damage to the gas and oil pipelines that provide Yemen with much of its national revenue has led to cuts in subsidies and rising prices for basic commodities. All the while, countrywide armed conflicts – including a secessionist movement in the south – have produced internal displacement on a large scale.
Current Humanitarian Situation
More than 400,000 Yemeni citizens have been displaced internally by conflict between the government and militant groups. The UN and its partners assist many of these IDPs, but unrest periodically restricts humanitarian activities. All of the displaced, however, are dealing with a growing food crisis that has left roughly ten million people food insecure and one million children under five malnourished. Poverty and unemployment – already widespread before the political crisis – continue to worsen, and IDPs’ inability to return home safely has put them in situations even more difficult than those they left behind.
One of the only regional signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Yemen also hosts more than 200,000 refugees – most of whom arrive in mixed migration flows from the Horn of Africa. Thousands of Somalis fleeing conflict and poverty have tried to reach Yemen in the past few years by crossing the Gulf of Aden from the Somali port of Bossaso: a grueling 36-hour boat journey which many do not survive. Once in Yemen, Somali refugees are automatically recognized as needing protection. However, refugees from other countries must go through a formal recognition process that can leave them without protection until a decision is reached. The poor social and economic conditions in Yemen mean that refugees’ needs have grown alongside those of IDPs and the general population, and the scarcity of resources is causing increased hostility toward African refugees in particular.