From severe drought to intense flooding, Yemen teeters on the brink
Yemen’s rainy season can be divided into two: the first rains from March to May and the second from July to August. During the 2022 rainy season, Yemen experienced two weather extremes, swinging from a severe drought to intense flooding as the country bears the brunt of climate crisis. It is already one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises.
Weather updates from FAO show that between January and June, Yemen experienced moderate-to-severe drought conditions. These were coupled with an unprecedented rise in temperatures, affecting all cropped regions of the country. The drought conditions intensified, becoming severe between April and May. January to June was the third record driest period in nearly 40 years after 2014 and 2000. These moderate-to-severe drought conditions led to crop losses, heat stress and limited forage availability for livestock, according to FAO. While the impact of severe drought experienced in the first part of the rainy season is yet to be fully assessed, generally such conditions threaten livelihoods, negatively affecting the food security situation, increasing the risk of diseases, malnutrition, and, in extreme cases deaths. Further impacts include habitat and landscape degradation, increased prices of water and food, and may lead to massive migration and displacement.
By mid-July, torrential rains and flooding had hit several areas across Yemen. According to FAO, rainfall in July was nearly 300 per cent above normal, making the second half of the season the wettest in nearly 40 years. Amanat Al Asimah, Dhamar, Amran and Sana’a stations reported heavy downpours exceeding 150 mm and, usually dry governorates such as Hadramaut and Al Maharah were extremely wet throughout the month. These conditions persisted throughout much of August with the country experiencing the impact of the heavy rains and devastating floods.
By the end of August, an estimated 51,000 families (more than 300,000 people) — mostly in displacement sites and settlements – were affected across 146 districts in 18 governorates, according to field reports from authorities and partners. Flooding caused destruction of property, farms and livelihoods, damage to critical infrastructure such as roads and shelters for internally displaced people (IDP) and, in some areas, human death. Flooding, just like the severe drought in the first half of the season greatly exacerbates food insecurity in a country where up to 19 million are food insecure. Field reports indicate that flooding has also moved unexploded ordnance to residential and agricultural areas, posing a grave risk to civilians, especially children.
These extreme weather conditions further exacerbated humanitarian needs, adding another layer of suffering for millions of Yemeni people, already severely affected by over seven years of economic collapse and protracted conflict. More than 23 million people need humanitarian assistance or protection. Aid agencies can only assist an average 11.6 million people per month as the 2022 response plan – seeking $4.27 billion – is only 42 per cent funded (as at the end of August) forcing aid agencies to reduce assistance and close programmes due to severe funding shortfalls. The malnutrition rate among women and children is among the highest in the world and a third of the 4.3 million IDPs in Yemen continue to live under dire conditions. Without the tireless commitment of humanitarians in Yemen, the situation would be far worse.