Where We Work - Yemen

Emergency Update: Children at Risk as Conflict Escalates in Yemen

Children in Yemen are facing a massive crisis. Volatile armed conflicts and rapidly shifting frontlines have been happening in the midst of growing poverty and an already large-scale humanitarian crisis. From the start of the Yemen emergency in 2012 to the end of 2014 we have reached nearly 1.5 million children with vital assistance. But as the conflict rages on, the needs of vulnerable children continue to grow.

"Children are at huge risk of injury and death as a result of the violence. The explosion yesterday [April 21], one of the biggest affecting the capital since the airstrike campaign started, offers a tragic example of the impact of using explosive weapons in populated areas, and illustrates the difficulties of operating in a context of full-on warfare," says Edward Santiago, country director for Save the Children, Yemen.

The explosion also hit our main office and guest house on the outskirts of Yemen’s capital City, Sana’a. Three members of staff were injured and this is the fourth Save the Children office damaged since the airstrike campaign started.

"We have had to close down the Sana'a office until this weekend at least. Our priority is the safety of our staff, but in a context where the population was already extremely vulnerable, most of our operations are life-saving," explains Santiago.
"Even stopping for a few days could cost lives, especially of children, with up to 850,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in the poorest Arab country." Read the latest press release to learn more.

Every day, children around the world are severely affected by crises and events which are out of their control. No one knows when, or where, the next crisis will occur. For nearly 100 years, Save the Children has been on the front lines of emergency and humanitarian responses around the world. Our Children’s Emergency Fund was established to provide assistance to children in their time of greatest need.

Our History in Yemen

Save the Children has been working in Yemen since 1963. The first international aid group in Yemen, we work nationally and locally to promote and protect children's rights, with programs in education, protection and survival.

Yemen is among the most challenging places in the world to raise a family. Mothers and children have alarmingly poor health and education, even when compared with other impoverished nations.

A fragile peace exists in Yemen, where thousands of children have been affected by long-term conflict. Many children and their families are displaced, having no homes or services to return to after years of struggle.

Our Results in Yemen

  • We kept 42,587 children safe from harm.
  • More than 17,499 children got the opportunity to learn.
  • In times of crisis, 156,412 children received emergency relief.
  • More than 161,602 children had a healthy start in life.
  • To fight malnutrition, nearly 57,830 received nutritious food and vital supplements.

Challenges for Children

Boys and girls are growing up in the poorest country in the Arab world with little opportunity for education and development. In the war-torn north, children suffer from malaria, diarrhea and other illnesses. Others have been separated from their parents, emotionally scarred by the conflict and troubled by upheaval in their lives. Complicating matters are refugees from nearby Somalia, fleeing from abject poverty and anarchy.

Nearly half of Yemeni children are at risk of malnutrition and are underweight for their age. Sadly, rampant food insecurity means many children do not know when their next meal will be.

Things are particularly hard for girls in Yemen, who are worse off for almost all indicators. Yemeni girls traditionally marry young exposing them to different forms of gender-based violence. Watch Malak’s animated film, a powerful video about her fight against child marriage.

Emergency Relief and Recovery

Conflict in northern Yemen has subsided, but threats of unrest looms in light of the political crisis in the Middle East. Historically, hundreds of children have been killed or maimed by artillery, drones and other explosives in Yemen. Read our exclusive report about Yemen and around the world: Devastating Impact: Explosive weapons and children

To help families affected by the violence, Save the Children’s response includes protection, education and health programs, strengthening existing structures and services in the communities. In 2010, a new program to improve families’ food security was launched that empowers people to help earn a living and feed their families.

Other programs have benefitted over 16,000 children who have taken part in activities at our Child Friendly Spaces and in schools. Health services are provided for 70,000 children and women who would otherwise go without even the most basic medical care.

Save the Children has responded to the influx of Somali refugees since the start of the conflict in the early 1990’s. Refugee children are provided basic health, protection and education services both at the one camp and among the host population in several communities throughout the country.

Impact and Programs

In 2010, Save the Children reached over 850,000 people through child protection, education, health and other essential programs. Save the Children also launched a new initiative to improve child survival through lifesaving health and nutrition support. For girls in Yemen, a major obstacle to good health is shame about their bodies and lack of access to information.

In Yemen, a key factor contributing to poverty is the lack of education. Despite recent gains in enrollment, school statistics in Yemen remain among the lowest in the Arab world. That’s why Save the Children is targeting an increase in education programs to more than 45,000 boys and girls. To support over 40 class and resource rooms, clean water and sanitation facilities were built or repaired.

Save the Children has also conducted successful youth leadership and development programs that helped vulnerable youth in Yemen make informed, practical and positive life choices that contribute to the stability of communities. Read about Ahmed, who was rescued from life as a gang member thanks to a youth development program.

  1. World Bank and MoPIC (2009). Education Country Status Report. World Bank in Yemen, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. Sana’a, Yemen.
  2. UNICEF (2005). At a glance Yemen. Statistics. Accessed April 13th 2007.
  3. United Nations (2007). Development Assistance Framework Republic of Yemen 2007-2011. Sana’, RoY.

Yemen Facts and Statistics

  • Population: 26,052,966
  • Infant Death Rate: 60 in 1,000 live births
  • Life Expectancy: 64.8 years
  • Underweight Children: 35.5%
  • Maternal Death Risk: 1 in 90 women
  • Girls' Education: 9.2 years
  • Income per capita: 1270 (USD)
  • Human Development Rank: 154 out of 187 countries


Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2014 State of the World’s Mothers report.You can access detailed data here.

Other sources as follows: Population and Life Expectancy: CIA World Factbook 2014; Human Development Rank: United Nations Development Programme 2014; Underweight Children: World Health Organization Report 2014

Last Updated April 2015

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