Remittance to YemenEight years of civil war have thrust Yemen into a state of economic and humanitarian emergency. The conflict has left 2.3 million children acutely malnourished, giving the media and nonprofits alike no choice but to report a dismal picture. There is, however, an untold story at play. The story of remittance to Yemen demonstrates that familial solidarity remains steadfast in times of crisis.

In short, remittance to Yemen refers to money transfers sent home by Yemenis who are working overseas, usually from the Gulf states, the U.S. and the U.K. More than 200 million migrants worldwide send remittances home to their families every year.

The World Bank estimates that, as of 2023, 24.1 million people in Yemen were at risk of hunger and disease. A further 14 million required acute assistance. It is these statistics that set the precedent for the importance of remittance for alleviating the country’s humanitarian emergency. Here is an overview of just some of the ways that remittance to Yemen is making a difference. 

Preventing Hunger and Starvation

The World Bank has declared that vast numbers of Yemenis are living on the verge of famine. “My daughter had malnutrition due to our harsh living conditions and lack of income”, Waleed Al-Ahdal told UNICEF. Al-Ahdal’s story is one of many. With countless others surfacing, it is unsurprising that UNICEF has warned that “no place in Yemen is safe for children.”

However, without the security of remittance payments, the situation would be even more grave. Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, Muhsin Siddiquey, has warned that Yemenis would have to rely on international aid “without the safety net of remittances.” With one in 10 people in Yemen relying solely on money transfers to meet their basic needs, the cruciality of remittance to Yemeni survival becomes clear. 

A Display of Solidarity

As well as combatting starvation, overseas Yemenis supporting their families to fend for themselves shows solidarity. The International Day of Family Remittances falls on June 16 every year and is a universally-recognized observance. This symbolic day celebrates migrant workers’ dedication to the well-being of their loved ones. 

Just 20 years ago, remittances were unaccounted for in international statistics — as were the sacrifices of migrant workers. Acknowledging remittance to Yemen as a powerful tool of poverty prevention is setting the precedence for the international community to follow suit and take humanitarian action. 

Setting the Precedence for Foreign Aid

The necessity for overseas money transfers to meet basic needs has put Yemen’s humanitarian crisis on the international radar. When allied with remittance payments, global action is having a real impact on the ground.

For example, The Yemen Social Fund for Development’s Cash for Nutrition program targets pregnant women and women with children less than 5 years old, teaching them about child nutrition and providing them with money for food. The World Bank estimates that 165,000 pregnant or lactating women and 175,000 children have been reached by the project so far.

An Economic Investment

Gilbert Houngbo, chief of IFAD, has described remittances sent by migrant workers as a “win-win solution”. He explains that remittance payments are positive for the workers’ countries of origin as well as the host countries. Houngbo estimates that 15% of each salary earned by overseas migrants in a host country is sent home in the form of remittance. The significance here is that this leaves an average of 85% of migrant income circulating in the host country, contributing to the national GDP. 

Of course, the humanitarian necessity of remittance is more pressing, but the economic benefits play a key part in encouraging states and service providers to facilitate the money transfers of migrants into and out of their countries. Economically speaking, remittance is a mutually beneficial enterprise. 

More Needs To Be Done

Remittance payments have their drawbacks. They do not target the root causes of extreme poverty in Yemen. Instead, they merely counteract the devastating impact war has had on the population’s basic needs. 

Moreover, the flow of remittance into Yemen is an unstable source of aid. One remittance service provider in Sa’ada saw a reduction in migrant money transfers of 96% between January 2020 and April of the same year. Likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global crisis exposed the insecurity of remittance with devastating consequences.

“I purchase food on credit from the grocery and have two months overdue rent,” Abu Ameer told Oxfam. Ameer’s plight worsened when his son stopped working due to the lockdown. As a result, Ameer’s son ceased payments to his father from Saudi Arabia. Ameer’s reliance on his son’s income laid bare the fragility of remittance as a method of reducing extreme poverty. 

While remittance to Yemen has evidently not ended the civil war, nor has it eradicated extreme poverty in the country, it remains a symbol of unity and a provider of aid for those most in need.  

– Imogen Townsend
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Yemen
The devastation of the Yemeni Civil War is a widely-known tragedy. The mounting casualties and damage to Yemen’s supporting infrastructures continue to put the lives of Yemeni civilians in jeopardy. Another devastating effect, however, is increased food security and hunger in Yemen. According to estimates in 2018, there were 20.2 million people in Yemen who faced a critical food shortage.

The Yemeni Civil War

Hunger in Yemen has its root in the Yemeni Civil war, which is entering its fifth year in 2020. What makes the Yemeni Civil war notable is the sheer amount of civilian casualties it has caused. Both the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC) and the Houthis seem to carry out artillery strikes and airstrikes with little regard to civilian casualties.

According to the International Rescue Committee’s 2019 report, an estimated 100,000 civilians died from the current conflict, 42 of whom were aid workers. The numerous air and artillery bombardment from the SELC and Houthi insurgency further add to the suffering of Yemeni civilians. In addition, explosive weaponry hit over 500 civilian homes in only July of 2019. These airstrikes and artillery bombardments threaten Yemeni civilians’ well-being when they directly target the agricultural sectors.

Starvation as a War Tactic

On top of their attack jets and precision munitions, SELC is using starvation as a weapon against the Houthis. Additionally, multiple reports suggest that airstrikes in Yemen are sometimes intentionally aimed at civilian agricultural sectors. The targets of these airstrikes include farms, fishing boats and factories that supply food and basic-goods to the civilians of Yemen. According to the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture, there were at least 10,000 SELC airstrikes that struck farms and 800 that struck local food markets. In addition, there were 450 airstrikes that hit silos and other food storage facilities.

In addition, the SELC imposed its blockade of Yemeni airports, seaports and land ports since November of 2017. This blocked out 500,000 metric tons of food and fuel, and 1,476 metric tons of foreign aid. As a result, this worsens the condition of hunger in Yemen because Yemen already imports about 70 percent of their food.

Malnourishment in Yemen

These factors all contribute to the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. By 2017, two years after the escalation of the conflict, an estimated 21.7 million people needed humanitarian assistance. Yemeni children are especially in danger of malnutrition. UNICEF’s 2017 estimate reported that nearly 2.2 million Yemeni children were acutely malnourished. There are a variety of negative consequences of malnourishment, including decreased immunity to diseases and impediments to physical development.

The call to end conflict and hunger in Yemen is certainly loud. In 2019, an article from the Independent stated that if the current conflict lasts for another 5 years, it will cost the international community an estimated $29 billion in humanitarian funding to the country. Moreover, there are signs that an end to the conflict is close. In October 2019, the Houthi offered to stop aiming missile and drone attacks at Saudi Arabia if the SELC would do the same. In addition, both SELC and the Houthi agreed to a nationwide ceasefire due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Organizations Fighting Hunger in Yemen

Many international organizations are working to alleviate hunger in Yemen. Action Against Hunger helps the malnourished in Yemen through its comprehensive health programs. The organization has reached 224,651 people with their nutrition and health programs, as well as 395,534 with their sanitation and hygiene programs and 102,666 with their food security and livelihood programs.

UNICEF is also working hard to treat child malnourishment. In 2016, UNICEF reported that they had treated 215,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Additionally, they provided vitamin supplements to more than 4 million children in Yemen.


Hunger in Yemen is one of the most significant humanitarian crises of our time. The Yemeni Civil War is the primary cause of this crisis, and continued fighting will only exacerbate the suffering of Yemeni citizens. However, the work being done by humanitarian organizations to alleviate hunger is having a real impact. These efforts, in addition to continued efforts toward peace, are crucial to decreasing hunger in Yemen.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr