Yemen: The invisible crisis, April-May 2017

After two years of relentless conflict, Yemen faces a humanitarian crisis quickly engulfing the majority of its population. According to the latest United Nations reports published this past April, an alarming 18.8 million people — almost two thirds of the population — need humanitarian assistance or protection support. Since mid-2015, when Houthi rebel forces took over the capital city of Sana’a, at least 3 million people have fled their homes from regions now embroiled in a prolonged ground war. As a result of the fighting, public services have broken down. Less than half of the health centers function, with medical supplies at a critically low supply. As of this past May, the 1.3 million-plus civil servants were entering an eighth month of not being paid. This statistic includes the thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics who continue to work despite the increasingly bleak future.

As almost all foreign media are banned from the country, it was through the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that Giles Clarke was given a month of rare access to document the declining humanitarian situation. In that time, he covered more than 2,200 km on the roads and visited many IDP (internationally displaced persons) settlements, hospitals and remote mountain towns. The physical beauty of Yemen is not lost on one while traveling, but the stories of pain, conflict and injury bear no relation to the spectacular rural landscapes. This is a country now deeply fractured by war, and unless there is some kind of peace agreement sometime soon, it seems very likely that the already desperate situation will plunge further into the abyss.

Photography and text by Giles Clarke for U.N. OCHA/Getty Images

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Student at school in Saada City

Aal Okab School, Saada City, Yemen, April 24, 2017: A student at the Aal Okab school stands in the ruins of one of his former classrooms, which was destroyed during the conflict in June 2015. Students now attend lesson in UNICEF tents nearby. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Sana’a Old City

Sana’a’ Old City, Yemen, May 7, 2017: The Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, dating back some 2,500 years. Located in a valley at 2,200 m above sea level, many of the characteristic ‘rammed earth’ buildings date back to Ottoman rule, which began in the early 1600s. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Displaced in Ibb City

Al Abthi building, Ibb City, Yemen, April 21, 2017: A young girl and her father on the stairs of a former government building in the suburbs of Ibb. The building was provided by local authorities to house 53 displaced families who fled here from Taizz after heavy fighting flared up in the summer of 2015. The building has no electricity or running water. The displaced families installed solar panels on the roof of the building to provide power for rudimentary lighting at night. Many of the children help their parents by collecting water and tending to the younger children in the building. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Sana’a building facade

Sana’a building facade,Sana’a, Yemen April 29, 2017: A building damaged by ground fighting and gunfire during conflict in 2011. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Fish market in Al Hudaydah

Fish market, Al Hudaydah, Yemen, April 17, 2017: The fishery sector has been heavily impacted by the conflict in Yemen. Productivity has decreased by 50 percent and 65 percent of fishermen have lost their jobs. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Bombed school in Saada City

Aal Okab School, Saada City, Yemen, April 24, 2017: Young students play in the ruins of the Aal Okab school, destroyed during the conflict in June 2015. Students now attend lesson in UNICEF tents nearby. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Injured boy in Sana’a

Al Joumhouri Hospital, Sana’a, Yemen, May 3, 2017: A young boy lies in the emergency room awaiting treatment. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Garbage in Al Hudaydah

Al Hudaydah, Yemen, April 18, 2017: Life in the backstreets of Al Hudaydah. Local recyclers scavenge through trash on a smoking street not far from the OCHA field office. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Malnourished child in Saada City

Al Joumhouri Hospital, Saada City, Yemen, April 24, 2017: Batool Ali, aged 6, stands on a hospital bed in Saada. Batool suffers from severe acute malnutrition. At the time the photograph was taken, Batool weighed only 15.8 kgs and only able to ingest liquids. The small pouch attached to her right arm is a local rural potion wrapped in a bag and used to ward off snakes whilst families take overnight shelter in homemade holes in the desert. During the night, many families leave their houses for the desert shelters in fear of airstrikes on their homes. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Government building in Saada City

Saada City, Saada Governorate, Yemen, April 24. 2017: A military guard sits in the former Assembly Hall of the Governor of Saada that now lies in ruins following multiple airstrikes in April 2015. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Cholera patient in Al Hudaydah

Al Thawra Hospital, Al Hudaydah, Yemen, April 15, 2017: A suspected cholera patient lies on a wooden bed in a hospital in Al Hudaydah. The resurgent cholera outbreak, which started at the end of April, is spreading with unprecedented speed in Yemen. As of July 2017, 250,000 suspected cholera cases have been recorded, leading to 1800 deaths, in 19 of the country’s 22 governorates. The war is severely hampering access for critical medical supplies. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Shepherd in Khamir, Amran Governorate

Khamir, Amran Governorate, Yemen, April 14, 2017: A 9-year-old shepherd sells qat on the roadside. Qat has taken over much of Yemen’s agricultural sector, with farmers increasingly opting to grow the stimulant leaf over other crops. Children in this area often do not go to school, and instead sell qat in order to support their families. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Stepped mountain field in Hajja

Hajja, near Sana’a, Yemen, April 19, 2017: The stepped mountain fields, at some 7,000 feet above sea level, have been built over hundreds of years to retain water and provide fertile soil in this rugged and remote region of the country. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

A farmer on the road to Hajja

On the road to Hajja, Yemen, May 7, 2017: An old farmer with his gun stands in the mountains of Yemen. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Bombing survivor in Sana’a

IDP community center, Sana’a, Yemen, April 30, 2017: Majed Shoei was injured in Taizz six months ago when a bomb exploded near to him. He broke his arm and leg as a result. He now lives with his brother in Sana’a, having fled Taizz to escape the hostilities and to seek medical treatment. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Gathering water in Al Hudaydah

Al Hudaydah, Hajjah Road Bridge, Yemen, April 16, 2017: A man and his sons travel to collect water underneath a bridge that was hit by an airstrike in mid-2016. Over the past two years, parties to the conflict have attacked civilian targets and infrastructure, including 325 verified attacks on schools, health facilities, markets, roads and other sites. An estimated 1,572 boys have been recruited and used in the conflict. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Saada City market

Saada City, Yemen, April 23, 2017: A young boy runs with his tire past buildings damaged by airstrikes in Saada’s Old Town. Up until August 2015, this area was home to Saada’s oldest market with thousands of people selling vegetables, spices and fabrics in stores and street stalls. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Displaced children in Ibb City

Al Abthi building, Ibb City, Yemen, April 21, 2017: Children peer out of a window in a former government building in the suburbs of Ibb. The building was provided by local authorities to house 53 displaced families who fled here from Taizz after heavy fighting flared up in the summer of 2015. The building has no electricity or running water. The displaced families installed solar panels on the roof of the building to provide power for rudimentary lighting at night. Many of the children help their parents by collecting water and tending to the younger children in the building. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

ABS IDP Settlement in Yemen

ABS IDP Settlement, Yemen, May 6, 2017: Displaced children stand in the shredded remains of tents in Abs settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Located just 40 km from the frontlines, the settlement is regularly damaged by passing sandstorms. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

ABS IDP Settlement in Yemen

ABS IDP Settlement, ABS Governorate, Yemen, May 4, 2017: A displaced woman drags water back to her tent in Abs IDP camp located just 40 KM from the frontline to Saudi Arabia. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Water shortage in ABS IDP Settlement

ABS IDP Settlement, Yemen, May 6, 2017: Internally displaced persons (IDPs) collect water in a brooding sandstorm. Water is heavily rationed and is only available during one-hour windows, which normally take place only three times a day. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Khamir IDP Settlement in Yemen

Khamir IDP Settlement, Amran Governorate, Yemen, April 14, 2017: Displaced children play on a donated foosball table in the Khamir IDP settlement, some 80 km north of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Sandstorm approaches Huth

Huth, Amran Governorate, Yemen, april 25, 2017: Children watch a mini tornado whip up sand as it travels across the desert landscape near the town of Huth situated about 80km north of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Walking through a Sana’a slum

Harat Al-Masna’a, Yemen, April 28, 2017: Abdellatif Allami walks with his 3-year-old daughter Sara in the Harat Al-Masna’a slum in Sana’a. The slum sits next to a former textile factory and hosts 231 families of former factory workers. The factory, which employed up to 1,600 workers, has been closed since 2005. The former workers used to receive a basic pension of around 30,000 Yemeni rials ($120) per month, but payments stopped seven months ago. Families now rely on donations to survive. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Khamir IDP Settlement in Yemen

Khamir IDP Settlement, Amran Governorate, Yemen, April 14, 2017: Ibtissam, a 15-year-old orphan girl lives in a ragged tent with her 7 siblings, in an IDP settlement in Khamir, about 100 km north of the capital Sana’a. The settlement houses more than 400 internally displaced families. Ibtissam fled here from the northern city of Saada. Her father was killed when her hometown was attacked in 2015 and her mother died of a stroke shortly after. Ibtissam and her siblings are among the more than 3 million people who have fled their homes in search for safety and security since the escalation of the conflict in 2015. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Swimming pool in Sana’a slum

Children play in a pool of water in the Harat Al-Masna’a slum in Sana’a, Yemen, April 28, 2017. This slum, which is close to an urban military base, was hit by two airstrikes last year on the day of the Eid Al-Adha, destroying 25 houses. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Al Thawra Hospital in Al Hudaydah

Al Thawra Hospital, Al Hudaydah, Yemen, April 15, 2017: Saleh is four months old and suffers from severe acute malnutrition. He weighs 2.5 kg and was admitted to hospital on 14 April 2017. His 22-year-old mother, Nora, already has five children. She was forcibly married at the age of 11, and had her first child when she was 12. Among displaced families in Yemen, child marriage has become an increasingly common coping strategy. A 2016 thematic assessment by UNFPA and INTERSOS on child marriage found that a trend previously in decline is now soaring. According to the latest UN figures, 462,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen today, a nearly 200% increase since 2014. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Dead cow in Al Hudaydah

Al Hudaydah, Yemen, April 19, 2017: A dead cow lies beside the main road leading out of the port town of Al Hudaydah. Locals tend to avoid dead carcasses as some have been known to be filled with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Migrant boat survivor in Al Hudaydah

Migrant Response point, Al Hudaydah, April 17, 2017: Mohammad, aged 17, is from Mogadishu and a survivor of the attack on a migrant boat off the coast of Yemen that killed at least 40 people on March 16, 2017. In early March, he left Mogadishu by car and made it to the port of Basaso (Puntland) before boarding the Yemen-bound boat with 140 others. They sailed through the night and into the next morning. He says he saw the helicopter take off from a large military boat and at first thought they were being saved. The helicopter circled the boat before returning to the ship. A little while later, the helicopter took off again and flew towards the packed migrant boat once more. After the second pass, the helicopter came around and opened fire “with big guns that went around,” says Mohammed. Two of his friends with whom he was traveling were killed instantly. He also saw a pregnant woman have her stomach shot open and the baby fall out, before he fell unconscious. He later found out that he had fallen into a coma for six hours before eventually waking up in a hospital in Al Hudaydah, with his right foot amputated. He was discharged after a week in hospital and is now living in an IOM (International Organization for Migration) Migrant Response Point with other survivors and recent migrant arrivals. IOM says that 40 people were killed in the attack. According to UNHCR, Yemen hosts over 255,000 Somali refugees. Despite the ongoing conflict and the hazardous journey, more than 117,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Yemen last year. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Saada City

Saada City, Yemen, April 23, 2017: Buildings damaged by airstrikes on the main street in Saada, the main Houthi stronghold in Yemen. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

IDP building in Sana’a outskirts

IDP building, Sana’a outskirts, Yemen, May 1, 2017: Khairy, a mother of three, stands on the roof of her temporary home in Sana’a. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

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