UNHCR’s country representative, Ayman Gharaibeh, warns war is tearing the fabric of Yemen apart and creating a humanitarian catastrophe.
Since war broke out in Yemen in March 2015, the fabric of the country has been disintegrating and the population of 27.4 million suffering untold hardship and misery. The situation there has been described as a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ and without help many more people, especially children, will die from violence, lack of food and water, illness or disease. Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR’s Representative to Yemen, is leading the UN Refugee Agency’s humanitarian operations and response across the country. The experienced humanitarian aid worker previously served in Yemen with UNHCR from 1992 to 1994. Gharaibeh spoke to Public Information Officer Shabia Mantoo about the desperate situation there.
Simply put this is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe. Current hostilities are taking place in a country mired by years of successive conflicts, widespread insecurity and under-development, so we now see a devastating mix of civilian casualties, mass displacement, worsening poverty, economic decline, deteriorating conditions, weakened public institutions and limited access to services. Almost two years into the conflict, we are trying to respond to a calamity in which nearly 19 million people across Yemen are in need of urgent assistance and people are suffering in truly abysmal conditions.
The situation facing many displaced Yemenis is essentially a struggle for survival – food, water and shelter are priority needs for those who have been forced to flee elsewhere in Yemen for safety. Many are now enduring miserable and inadequate conditions living in overcrowded or makeshift shelters for months on end and without sufficient protection. More than half the population is without adequate food and health care and this will only worsen. Deteriorating conditions are also facilitating the spread of preventable communicable diseases, such as cholera, which have arisen as a consequence of the conflict.
UNHCR has been present in Yemen since the 1980s. It is saddening for me personally that every time I come back to Yemen it is because of yet another war. In the early 90s there was the unification war and now more than two decades later we come back to yet another conflict.
In the current context, our response is oriented towards addressing the needs of displaced Yemenis as well as of refugees and asylum seekers in Yemen. Under the humanitarian coordination system that is activated in Yemen, we lead the shelter, non-food item, and protection response through all phases of displacement. Our prioritised assistance has to date reached more than 660,000 Yemenis most in need of the 2.2 million that have been displaced. Our winter assistance is also being delivered to reach 210,000 individuals. To help protect the rights of those forcibly displaced, we provide legal and financial assistance and psychosocial support services in addition to other programmes and interventions.
Humanitarian access remains a significant issue in light of security and bureaucratic obstacles; and we also have to bear in mind that a number of proscribed organisations operate in Yemen so access is also impeded on this front. However, other reasons may be as innocuous as the fact that information flows for authorisations may not work in a systematic way, so delays can result from clearances not being received in time from the centre to the field. Nonetheless, we continue to advocate with parties to the conflict for access and we maintain a presence through field offices across Yemen. Despite these constraints, we have reached 20 of Yemen’s 21 governorates.
The magnitude of the crisis in Yemen is such that it cannot be addressed by humanitarian assistance and the humanitarian community alone. We are dealing with multi-layered economic and social impacts of war that are affecting literally every household in Yemen, whether through worsening poverty and the effects of the declining currency or the lack of essential services and weakened public institutions. If the situation continues we will see the public sector weaken to the point of collapse, basic infrastructure will begin to unravel and that will be one step closer to chaos. There needs to be significant redress in parallel with a political, peaceful resolution of the conflict to halt this downward spiral. There are ongoing discussions between the UN and the World Bank on how to preserve state institutions from collapsing, but that is fraught with challenges when the economic collapse is in fact the objective in this conflict.
It is definitely a neglected crisis when compared to other regional crises. If we look at the magnitude and scale of the needs in Yemen, the attention it receives is disproportionate. This is due to a number of factors and, as disastrous as it is, the conflict hasn’t generated huge outflows of Yemeni refugees. So, in the absence of movements from Yemen and onwards to Europe, there is no spotlight on this catastrophe. Furthermore, there is also the misperception that this is only a regional crisis or a neighbourhood problem, and as a result many traditional donors don’t see the need to extend as much support.
It is very short-sighted to see Yemen as just a regional crisis, it is a global crisis with far-reaching implications. This is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. What are the implications of a country on the brink? If instability continues to prevail in parts of the country, then proscribed organisations currently present in Yemen will benefit – and that poses a threat to global security. The world cannot afford to let Yemen slip into the abyss. Yemen must be supported and we need to keep on advocating and mobilising support in every way we can.
Interview by Shabia Mantoo
Help us support Yemeni families
You can help
Collection of Personal Information
Australia for UNHCR follows the Australian Privacy Principles in handling personal information; we collect personal information about individuals including supporters, employees, contractors, volunteers, special representatives/delegates and job applicants. This information is collected directly from you, in person, by phone or email, on hard copy donation forms or via our website. We may also collect your personal information from publically available sources or third parties.
Use of Personal Data
The information we collect and hold generally includes contact details (name, address, email), personal details including date of birth, and credit card or bank accounts details.
We use the personal information you provide us with for the purpose for which it was provided to us, other related purposes or as permitted or required by law. Generally we collect and use your personal information for:
We also use your information in our marketing and fundraising activities, keeping you informed of our latest news, campaigns and appeals or about campaigns and appeals which may be of interest to you, and offer you the opportunity to subscribe to them. We may also offer you the opportunity to participate in surveys carried out by Australia for UNHCR or its agents.
We use your personal details to assist in the cost-effective development of our marketing and fundraising activities by sending you information by post, email or telephone. As we have a large number of supporters, at times we use external providers to assist with our telemarketing and mailing. We will take reasonable steps to ensure that our contracts with third parties include requirements for third parties to comply with the Use and Disclosure requirements of the Privacy Act.
We will endeavour to provide you with an opportunity to opt out of receiving such communications. By signing our pledge documents, you consent to having your personal information stored. If you do not opt out by ticking the box, we will send you our direct marketing materials. We make every effort to ensure that our opt-out notices are clear and easy to follow.
If you do not wish to receive future communications from Australia for UNHCR or have any questions about privacy please contact our Donor Care Team; contact details are included at the bottom of this policy.
Disclosure and Sharing of Personal Data
We occasionally invite other like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia to contact you with information that may be of interest. This allows Australia for UNHCR to increase its base of supporters and reach more people with our vital message.
Any personal contact information you provide to us may be disclosed, if appropriate, to third parties who provide services on our behalf. We may also disclose your personal information to our volunteers who assist with many of our tasks.
Strict confidentiality agreements are in place with our service providers and external agencies, and with staff and volunteers who handle your personal information. We will only disclose your personal information for the purposes for which it was initially collected, other directly related purposes or purposes to which you otherwise consent.
Other than as stated above, we will we not share your personal information. However, it is possible, though unlikely, that we might be forced to disclose personal information in response to legal processes or when we believe in good faith that the law requires it, for example, in response to a court order, subpoena or a law enforcement agency's request.
If you do not wish Australia for UNHCR to share your personal information with like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia, you may opt out by ticking the appropriate box on the donation or pledge form or contact our Donor Care team, with contact details at the bottom of this policy. If you have any questions about privacy please contact our Donor Care Team (see contact details at the bottom of this policy).
Access and Correction of Personal Data
Australia for UNHCR will correct its records containing Personal Information as soon as practically possible at the request of the individual concerned in accordance with the Privacy Act. We take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information that we collect and hold is accurate, complete and up-to-date. However, we rely on you to advise us of any changes to your personal information to help us maintain accurate, complete and up-to-date information.
We will, on request, provide you with access to the personal information we hold about you unless otherwise required or permitted by law. We will notify you of the basis for any denial of access to your personal information.
Individuals wishing to lodge a request to access and/or correct their Personal Information should do so by contacting our Donor Care Team; contact details are included at the bottom of this document.
Quality of Personal Information
Australia for UNHCR will review, on a regular and ongoing basis, its collection and storage practices to ascertain how improvements to accuracy can be achieved. We may utilise the services of third parties in order to maintain accurate personal information. Where such disclosure is made, we take reasonable steps to require these organisations comply with the National Privacy Principles.
Storage and Security of Information
We strive to protect your personal information, that it is protected from misuse, loss, interference and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. For example, whenever we ask for your financial details online, we use security-encrypted response forms.
No data transmission over the internet can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect your personal information, Australia for UNHCR cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to us over the internet, and you do so at your own risk. Once we receive your transmission, we make our best effort to try and ensure its security both on our systems and while in transit between our systems and the companies who provide us with various services. If you do not wish to make your financial contribution online, please contact us to receive a hard copy form; contact details are included at the bottom of this policy.
Making a Privacy Complaint
We will refer your complaint to our Privacy Officer who will investigate the issue and determine the steps that we will undertake to resolve your complaint. We will contact you if we require any additional information from you and will notify you in writing of the outcome of the investigation. If you are not satisfied with our determination, you can contact us to discuss your concerns. If your complaint is about the way we handle your personal information, you may also contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner by calling 1300 363 992, online at www.oaic.gov.au or writing to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001.
Online Activity and Privacy
Third party cookies
Australia for UNHCR sometimes embeds photos and video content from websites such as YouTube. Pages with this embedded content may present cookies from these websites. Similarly, when you use one of the share buttons on our website, a cookie may be set by the service you have chosen to share content through. We do not control the dissemination of these cookies; you should check the relevant third party website for more information about these.
In addition, if you linked to our websites from a third party website, we cannot be responsible for the privacy policies and practices of the owners or operators of that site. We recommend you check the policy of the third party site and contact its owner or operator if you have any concerns or questions.
Web browser cookies
If you wish to restrict or block web browser cookies which are set on your device you can do this through your browser settings; the Help function within your browser should tell you how. Alternatively, you may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers.
Our website and mobile site may contain links to online forums. Think carefully before you post or publish any Personal Information in these forums as it will be publicly available.
Secure Online transactions
If you make a donation via our website, we process your credit/debit card details securely using an accredited internet payment security system. With the combination of SSL encryption on our website and a secure browser at your end, we take all reasonable measures to ensure that your credit/debit card and personal information are protected when you donate online. We also recommend that you take appropriate security precautions when accessing the internet via public Wi-Fi networks or shared computers.
If you have any questions about your privacy, wish to access or change your details, how to lodge a complaint regarding the handling of your information and how that complaint will be handled by Australia for UNHCR, please contact our
Donor Care Team: