Humanitarian Action for Children

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it
provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.

Yemen snapshot

Appeal highlights

  • Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis globally. Protracted armed conflict, widespread economic collapse and a breakdown in national systems and services has left 80 per cent of the total population, including 12.4 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance. The protracted situation risks bringing Yemen to the brink of famine; at least 325,000 children are severely malnourished and 2 million are moderately malnourished. The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained the fragile health system and exacerbated the underlying protection and gender-related vulnerabilities of children, adolescents and women.
  • UNICEF’s humanitarian strategy has a dual focus on direct life-saving assistance and system strengthening, in line with efforts to strengthen the linkages between humanitarian action and development programming. The COVID-19 response involves protecting children and their families from exposure to the virus, minimizing mortality and supporting the continuity of essential services.
  • Amidst an already constrained funding landscape, UNICEF requires US$576.9 million to respond to the humanitarian situation in Yemen in 2021. Over 70 per cent of funding requirements are for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition.

Key planned results for 2021

289,402 children admitted for treatment for severe acute malnutrition

5.5 million children vaccinated against polio

6.1 million women and children accessing gender-based violence risk mitigation/prevention/response

8 million people participating in engagement actions

Funding requirements for 2021

Country needs and strategy

More than five years since the conflict began, Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 24.3 million people – 80 per cent of the total population – in need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict has left 3.6 million people, including 2 million children, internally displaced, and 422,000 people are now migrants and asylum seekers.

Humanitarian access in Yemen remains constrained due to the escalation of the armed conflict and increasing bureaucratic impediments that are hampering the work of UNICEF and partners across the country. In 2020, fighting erupted along new front-lines, bringing the number of active front-lines to 43. Hostilities are most intense in Marib governorate. Children are the primary victims of the war: nearly 3,200 have been killed, over 5,700 have been injured and nearly 3,500 have been recruited into armed forces and groups.

The war's impact on children has been staggering. More than 325,000 children under 5 years are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), and more than 20.5 million people urgently need WASH services. Nutrition needs are continuing to rise in the south, and lack of funding for WASH is undermining the WASH response. These conditions are heightening the risk of cholera, malnutrition and other WASH-related diseases, including COVID-19. In the first six months of 2020, nearly 110,000 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhoea/cholera and 27 associated deaths were recorded. Immunization coverage has stagnated at the national level, with 37 per cent of children under 1 year missing routine vaccinations. As a result, the country is seeing regular outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and other preventable diseases. In 2020, Yemen confirmed 16 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

By 31 August 2020, Yemen had confirmed nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 1,100 recoveries and nearly 570 deaths. The outbreak has put added pressure on the already fragile health system – more than half of health facilities are not functioning – and global shortages and breaks in the supply chain could lead to further loss of household income, rising food prices and inflation. At least 2 million children in Yemen were out of school before the COVID-19 outbreak; and following COVID-19 school closures, an additional 5.8 million children have had their educations disrupted. School closures and the worsening economic situation due to COVID-19 restrictions have increased the vulnerability of children and women to exploitation, violence and abuse, including child labour, domestic and gender-based violence and child marriage.

UNICEF's humanitarian strategy in Yemen is aligned with the Humanitarian Needs Overview, Humanitarian Response Plan and cluster priorities. UNICEF leads the nutrition and WASH clusters and co-leads the education cluster and the child protection sub-cluster, providing dedicated full-time support to coordination and information management.

Building on gains made in previous years, UNICEF will continue to pursue a balanced approach between providing immediate life-saving interventions and investing in systems strengthening. This balancing of humanitarian and development programming will require a nuanced approach in different parts of the country at different paces, and dedicated donor support.

Access constraints and bureaucratic impediments continue to intensify. The fighting continues in 45 active front-lines that are home to nearly 1.2 million children. Notwithstanding these challenges, UNICEF will continue to provide life-saving programmes for children in some of the hardest-to-reach districts with its robust field presence and network of five field offices.

With public services collapsing, UNICEF will continue to provide life-saving health and nutrition interventions through community-based activities for affected populations, including internally displaced persons, while sustaining and strengthening access to a set of high-impact preventive and curative services at the community and facility levels. UNICEF’s COVID-19 strategy involves protecting children and their families from exposure to the virus, minimizing mortality and supporting the continuity of services.

UNICEF WASH interventions will include the provision of durable, cost-effective solutions that strengthen the resilience of local institutions and communities. UNICEF will provide immediate life-saving assistance; sustain existing WASH services to mitigate exposure to disease in high-risk communities and avert further deterioration of humanitarian needs; and support public institutions to reduce risks of COVID-19 and support health actors to reduce secondary contamination in health facilities.

UNICEF will continue to improve access to and enrolment in safe learning environments through the rehabilitation of damaged schools and the establishment of temporary safe learning spaces and safe COVID-19 school protocols. Incentives for school-based staff will also continue in 2021. UNICEF will integrate gender-responsive initiatives to ensure protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and strengthen interventions to prevent, respond to and mitigate the risk of gender-based violence through UNICEF-supported programmes.

UNICEF will build the resilience of affected children through life-skills education and psychosocial support in community spaces, schools and hospitals; mitigate the risk of injuries from exposure to landmines and explosive remnants of war through targeted campaigns; and provide services to children with acute protection needs, including children released from armed forces and groups. The Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting will engage with parties to the conflict to establish concrete measures to prevent and halt grave child rights violations.

Vulnerable children and families will receive integrated social protection services, including humanitarian cash transfers, in line with the Grand Bargain commitments.

Find out more about UNICEF's work


Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Yemen; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.

Publication date

December 2020


Download the full appeal to find out more about UNICEF’s work and targets for Yemen.