Historically, Yemen has been one of the poorest of the Arab countries. Since the civil war that broke out in 2015, the U.N. has found some alarming statistics on the state of the nation. In 2018, the number of Yemeni living in poverty is at a high of 79 percent, a 30 percent increase since 2017. The country is also experiencing other hardships as a result of the war. This includes concerns such as food insecurity, sanitation, healthcare access, nutritional needs, education, lack of access to clean water, a wavering economy and the displacement of people. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Yemen, both the causes and solutions to demonstrate the progress everyone has made.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Yemen
- Food insecurity is a problem that is currently impacting 60 percent of Yemen’s population. Save the Children estimated that, since the beginning of the war in 2015, as many as 85,000 children may have died of hunger. Governments, like the U.K for example, have taken action in response. The U.K. has allocated enough funds to provide £170 million in aid for the 2018-2019 year, meeting the food needs of 2.5 million Yemenis.
- Malnourishment is having a severe impact on 3 million pregnant or nursing women as well as on children. Thankfully the World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working to combat this. In 2018, WFP used direct food distributions or vouchers to provide 12 million people monthly rations of edible seeds and legumes, vegetable oil, sugar, salt and wheat flour. The organization has also been providing nutritional support to approximately 1.5 million women and children as well. However, humanitarian efforts are also struggling to reach Yemen. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Yemen airspace. Yemen is an import-heavy country, requiring 10 to 15 thousand metric tons of food, this blockade is pushing Yemen even further to the brink of famine.
- The lack of basic healthcare is also having a negative impact on the long-term health of the Yemeni. The war effort has practically demolished the country’s healthcare system. In addition, fewer than 50 percent of healthcare facilities are functioning, leaving approximately 16 million people without access to basic healthcare. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that in 2017, a cholera outbreak infected nearly a million people. Despite being a completely treatable disease, thousands of people died from it.
- Contaminated water supplies have also contributed to the spread of waterborne diseases. The collapse of the wastewater management systems, mostly in Houthi-controlled territory, led to the previously mentioned cholera outbreak. In addition to cholera, contagious diseases like diphtheria are spreading to the immunocompromised population as well. Thankfully, both the ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been sending fuel for electric generators to power hospitals, blood banks and labs as well as petrol for ambulances and clean water to try to mitigate the problem.
- Rising fuel prices are aggravating other existing issues, like food security, and contributing to the shortening life expectancy. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, in 2017 Yemen ranked at 176 in terms of life expectancy with the average age of 65.9. In comparison, the U.S. ranks at 43 with an average age of 80. In 2016, the U.N. shared that the global average life expectancy was also much higher at 72 years. In the last three years, food costs have increased by 46 percent, partially due to the cost of fuel prices increasing higher than 500 percent of what they were before the conflict. The more expensive fuel is, the higher the food transportation costs are, which leads to more expensive food and the higher likelihood that people are going to go hungry.
- The declining economy is also limiting the purchasing power of the Yemeni, making it difficult for them to buy basic necessities. The World Bank notes that household incomes have been continuously declining, partially due to the fact that, traditionally, agriculture has been a source of income for poor households, but it’s now being restricted by several factors. In efforts to combat this problem, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided $2 billion to the Central Bank system of Yemen (CBY) as well as an oil grant of $1 billion. This action should help to revitalize the private channels and imported financing facilities previously provided by the CBY for food.
- Displacement of the Yemeni has also had a considerable impact on their life expectancy. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2 million people who have escaped the country don’t have access to basic needs like food, water, shelter and healthcare. In response, the UNHCR has also been taking measures to mitigate these problems. The UNHCR provides basic necessities like blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, buckets and emergency shelters. The organization has also provided healthcare services like psycho-social support and worked to prevent the spread of cholera. While refugees travel to these campus for safety, they are still susceptible to danger. Just last month, eight civilians were killed and 30 were injured from after a camp for displaced people in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah province was bombed.
- International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another NGO working to alleviate the burdens of the Yemeni. Since 2012, the IRC has worked to promote cholera awareness, run medical treatment centers, screen and treat children for malnutrition and train volunteers to work in local communities. The IRC has provided primary reproductive care to more than 800,000 people, counseling mothers and caregivers on safe feeding and breastfeeding methods.
- Organizations like Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation (YRRF) have also initiated considerable positive changes. Some of their highlights of the 2018 year include sending 1,300 water filters to people in need, distributing a month’s worth of food rations to 110,000 people and providing school bags and supplies to kids. These supplies were given primarily to families in Aslim, Hajjah, an area close to Saudi Arabia where many are unable to access to aid agencies.
- In addition to international organizations, passionate individuals are taking action to help the Yemeni. Ahman Algohbary is using his passion for photography, social media skills and ability to speak English to draw attention to the conditions people are going through in Yemen. His images online have led to people sending donations that are being used to sponsor families so they can reach clinics where they can receive nutrition treatment.
The problems that the Yemeni face are essentially all related, making them difficult to resolve. The conflict, for instance, has led to a decrease in funds and focus on vital public services, leading to the failure of sanitation and healthcare. However, international organizations like the UNHCR and ICRC are all stepping up to provide aid to thousands of families. Even individuals on a grassroots level are doing what they can to improve the situation. The 10 facts about the life expectancy in Yemen demonstrate the severity of the issue but also the ability for people all across the world to come together in efforts to help others.