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11 million reasons to care about Yemen

11 October 2018

There are over 11 million children in desperate need of your help in Yemen. But why?

Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. 

In March 2015, a long-running political crisis escalated into violence, with devastating consequences for people who live in Yemen. 

Half of the population is facing a food crisis. Many more need clean water and medical care. Disease, hunger and war pose a triple threat in Yemen. It's now being called one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time.  

With 40% of the population aged under 15, the country’s needs are huge. More than 80% of people rely on aid agencies and the UN for essentials such as food and healthcare.

The war in Yemen has left 11.3 million children need humanitarian assistance, more than 2.5 million people internally displaced and 3.4 million children out of school. 

Schools and hospitals have been caught in the crossfire and fighting has prevented access to food, fuel, clean water and medical supplies. 

Nearly 8 million children are now going hungry every day and almost a third of under-fives are acutely malnourished. 

Where is Yemen?  

The Republic of Yemen, is a country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman by land. It is the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the peninsula.

A few facts about Yemen  

  • In ancient times, Yemen was known as the “happy land” because its high mountains attracted rain, making it more fertile than its neighbours.  

  • The port city of Mocha (al-Mukha) was once the centre of the world’s coffee trade. Today coffee is still one of Yemen’s most important crops and exports.  

  • Yemen has a population of 27.58 million (according to the 2016 census). 

  • 46% of this population is under the age of 15. 

  • The official language of Yemen is Arabic but English is also used in official and business circles.

The latest from Yemen

March 20, 2019: Hear our voices, we are sick of war

Warring parties in Yemen agree to a ceasefire in Hodeidah

Read the full media release here.

February 24, 2019: Australian Government must pledge more aid to Yemen, not weapons

Australia will attend a high-level pledging conference on Tuesday in Geneva where it must commit more funding to the humanitarian response in Yemen.

Read the full media release here.

February 21, 2019: New petition launched

Stop Australian defence exports to war-crime accused Saudi Arabia.

Read the full media release here.

December 15, 2018: More than 170,000 children under 5 killed by war each year: new report

Save the Children calls on Australia to halt the export of military assets to countries involved in Yemen war, where up to 85,000 children have died from extreme hunger.

Read the full media release here.

What needs to be done?

The key issues are:

Yemen is now the largest humanitarian emergency in the world, with an astonishing 75% of the population in need of aid. A massive humanitarian effort has only just prevented famine being declared, but extreme hunger is a reality for many families.

Clean water

16 million people lack access to clean water and sanitation, a dangerous breeding ground for infectious diseases. In 2017, Yemen was rocked by the worst cholera outbreak in recent history, with over a million suspected cases.


An unfathomable 3.3 million people have been uprooted from their homes, including 1.6 million children. Hospitals, water networks, schools and other services vital to everyday life have been bombed or have shut down because staff are no longer being paid.


An estimated 4.5 million children were unable to go back to school at the start of the last school year, depriving them of their right to an education and putting their futures in jeopardy. 

Who are the people being affected?

More than 11 million children are in need of urgent help. Here are just 3 of these children's stories.


Fayez* and his family come from Yemen, which has been locked in civil war since 2015.

Fayez has a wife, four daughters and a son – another son was killed in an air strike. 

One day, Fayez and his daughter Suzan hitched a ride on a motorbike to market. A military vehicle crashed into the motorbike – killing its driver, injuring Fayez and sending a piece of metal straight into Suzan’s skull.

A taxi driver rushed the two of them to hospital, where they were given urgent medical treatment. 

Suzan’s head wound was cleaned and stitched up, but the damage to her brain had already been done. She now has terrible nightmares and little understanding of the world around her. Her left arm is also injured. 

“She screams at night when she’s asleep. Even at night when you are sleeping, she wakes up in panic about 20 times, saying “I’m dying I’m dying… the motorbike fell over”. We tell her there is no motor, she says “no, there is, and the car behind is going to hit us”.

Fearing more deaths, the family fled their home with nothing and made their way to the capital city of Sana’a – narrowly avoiding bombing and road blocks en route. 



Iman was playing in her backyard when an airstrike hit her neighbour’s house. Shrapnel from the attack severely injured her neck, hand, and leg. She couldn’t stop crying out that she was going to die as her father rushed her to the local hospital. Save the Children met with Iman and covered the expense of transferring her to a hospital in Sana’a with doctors who could safely operate on her neck wound.  

Her health has now improved, and our Child Protection team are following up with Iman to ensure she gets psychological support to help her cope with her experiences. 



Karema, five years old, recently had a bad stomach-ache with diarrhoea which made her repeatedly need the toilet for two whole days. On the third day her mother took her to the hospital, where doctors put her on an IV drip. She was back home early the next day and with a few days of prescribed medicines, Karema felt much better. Save the Children visited Karema’s family and encouraged them to cover their septic tank, to avoid risk of disease. They spoke to the family about cholera and how to prevent it. Karema wants to be a doctor when she grows up, so she too can help sick people as she was just helped. 



Sarah is from northern Yemen. She and her family, along with hundreds of others, had to flee their home when the conflict escalated and airstrikes their home city. They fled to stay with her uncle’s family in his small and overcrowded house. Sarah loved going to school back home, where she was a member of the dance team, and she regularly visited Save the Children’s Family Center. She now lives next to Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space, where she loves to spend her time playing, drawing and studying with her new friends. She is looking forward to going back home, to her original school, and continuing education to fulfil her dream of becoming a police officer.

Children killed and injured travelling to school

On 9th August 2018, Ismail* (7 years old) and Khaled* (12 years old) were on their way to school, when their school bus was hit by a bomb from an aircraft. Around 50 people were killed, 40 of whom were children and most under the age of 10. Both boys survived, but were badly injured after being hit multiple times by flying shrapnel. Now, with the support of Save the Children, they are trying to come to terms with what happened to them and their friends. 

In Khaled's words

“I couldn’t find my friends. But a man saved me – he took me [to hospital]... then I passed out. I stayed unconscious for 25 days...Some of my friends died and some got injured. They used to come and see me, or I’d go and see them. Not anymore. Now I go to the graveyard. I cry every time.”

In Ismail's words

 “At first, I couldn’t get better, I couldn’t at all. But after a week or two, I started to get better. I had a fragment [of shrapnel] right next to my eye and a fragment in my leg – they put me to sleep and removed with I don’t know what. My foot is broken and fractured there, twisted there and broken near my toes. There’s [shrapnel] in my little toe. War is not good. Everybody dies in it. The war is a curse. I wish it could stop now.”

Save the Children gave $27,000 to support the team at Al Thawra hospital and ensure that injured children like Ismail and Khaled were given urgent medical treatment. We continued our support throughout the children’s recovery and provided them with intensive psycho-social support to help them come to terms with what they had been through. We also looked after the children’s families by supplying them with daily meals and tents to stay in and paid for their transportation home when all medical treatment ended. 

What are we doing to help? 

The health system in Yemen has been badly affected by the current conflict in Yemen. Save the Children, with funding from DFAT, has launched different activities to help people in Sana’a and Sa’ada governorates. We established the Emergency Obstetric Care (EMOC) unit in Qaá AL-Reqa health facility in Hamdan district and completed rehabilitation works of the sanitation and water system in the same health facility. Save the Children also trained and skilled up 20 midwives from surrounding health facilities to extend support for reproductive services in that health facility.  

We are also on the ground delivering food, medicine and humanitarian support wherever possible. We’re supporting health centres and hospitals across the country, which have treated more than 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition. We’re operating mobile health clinics in the hardest-to-reach areas and we’re helping children come to terms with their experiences by providing psychosocial support.

Our staff like Dr. Mohammed are working tirelessly to help save children's lives. Dr Mohammed works in a Save the Children supported health facility in Sa’ada where he treats patients who are hungry and ill because of the war in Yemen. Many of them simply can’t afford the vital treatment, medication or transport to reach the hospital. 

Save the Children was the first international non-governmental organisation to be registered in Yemen and we’ve been working in the country since 1963. Already the poorest nation in the Middle East, after the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 we scaled up our response to meet the immense needs of children and their families. 

Our health response reaches families in 9 governorates through 97 fixed health facilities and 9 mobile teams. We have treated 371,251 people including 190,841 children since the beginning of the response.

We urgently need your support to reach more children and families and to help protect their lives from the threat of hunger, disease and the devastating impacts of a brutal war. 

*Names have been changed to protect indentity

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