IOM Yemen Quarterly Update: Quarter 1, January – March 2020


The ongoing conflict has rendered Yemen one of the most fragile countries in the world, and the impact of a COVID-19 outbreak will further devastate a country in which food insecurity, malnutrition, low functioning health capacities, and other communicable diseases remain widespread. Even with mitigation measures, experts estimate that 55 per cent of the population in Yemen will be infected, 300,000 requiring hospitalization and approximately 42,000 deaths; numbers that would completely overwhelm already weakened health facilities in the country. The authorities in Yemen instituted several mitigation measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission, including closure of airports, sea ports and land border points, restricting freedom of movement between northern and southern governorates, and imposing curfews in some of the governorates.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), between January and March 2020 approximately 28,000 migrants arrived in Yemen; down from the 37,000 who made the same journey in quarter 1 2019 and a decrease of nearly 50 per cent when comparing March 2020 with March 2019. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a key factor influencing migration patterns, as security was heightened at borders. Additionally, forced quarantine of migrants in facilities not aligned with public health measures is also reported to be taking place and migrants are being stigmatized by local media who are labelling them as carriers of diseases.

IOM and humanitarian organizations continued to face severe access constraints, primarily in the north of the country. The humanitarian space, already restrictive in 2019, continued to shrink, as obstructive policies and directives from the authorities rose. On average, 92 per cent of IOM permits from its head office in Sana’a were not approved in the first quarter of the year. This meant that IOM was not able to carry out critical assistance as well as assessment and monitoring activities, in support over 150,000 beneficiaries. Restrictions were further institutionalized with the outbreak of COVID-19, despite the need for COVID-19 preparedness and response activities to be rapidly facilitated. In March, when Yemen closed its borders and implemented policies limiting travel between governorates, IOM saw the highest volume of permits denied. Despite access restrictions in northern governorates, IOM continued to implement emergency field operations, including in Marib governorate where a spike in conflict hostilities on 21 January led to major displacement.

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