Imagine having to decide who will receive lifesaving supplies and who won’t. How do you make the impossible decision?

This is the reality for UNHCR humanitarians in Yemen, where eight in 10 people rely on external aid for their daily survival.

Already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance (the equivalent of Australia’s population), a lack of funds is putting millions of lives at risk.

Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR’s Representative in Yemen, says that without humanitarian aid millions of people in Yemen would not be able to feed their families. Already, 20 million people are on the brink of starvation.

“We don’t have enough funding for us to be able to deliver basic lifesaving interventions for most of the population,” he told Australian supporters attending Australia for UNHCR’s online Frontline Club this month.

UNHCR Yemen’s annual budget requirements are $US212 million – and with just 30 per cent of the requirements met halfway through the year, staff are being forced to make incredibly difficult decisions.

“Do we decide to help people with disabilities – or is it way too expensive? Or do we think it is more important to give money to families to buy food?" Jean-Nicolas says.

"Those have been the ethical questions that we have had to put to the team."

“The dual element of having conflict, of having very difficult authorities to deal with and the fact that we don’t have enough money is a recipe for humanitarian disaster.”

More than 24 million Yemenis are in need of aid. UNHCR provides shelter, legal and financial assistance and psychosocial support for those displaced by the war. ©UNHCR/M.Fadel

For 29-year-old Ahlam, who fled her home in 2015 and now lives in rented accommodation with her mother and sisters, the consequences of a reduction in assistance would be disastrous. It could mean the very real threat of losing the roof over their heads which they only managed to secure thanks to their most recent UNHCR cash payment.

“This money saved us from eviction,” Ahlam says. 

“The landlord wanted to get us out of the house, but we paid for two months’ rent and the rest of the money we used to buy food because we did not have anything in our home.” Ahlam’s story is familiar for displaced Yemenis in the war-torn country.

Omar fled his home with his wife and three children after it was damaged during conflict. Now, Omar and his family are entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance with work almost impossible to find in an economy on the brink of collapse.

“Without the money we received, how can we live? We left our homes and families, we have no one here,” Omar says.

“Our situation would be very bad. I would have to go out to find any job, even if there are risks of diseases. I will not let them go hungry.”

Now UNHCR Representative in Yemen, Jean-Nicolas Beuze is pictured talking to a family in a previous posting in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan. ©UNHCR/D.Azia

Jean-Nicolas Beuze says UNHCR and partners are ready to stay and deliver in Yemen, but to do so, they need more funds now.

“Through our cash program, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of Yemenis at a time when they need us most,” he says.

“There are very few places I have been in my 21-year-career with UNHCR where every penny counts. Without your support, we cannot continue saving lives.” 

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In Yemen, eight out of 10 people rely on external aid for their daily survival. ©UNHCR/ YWU

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