Country Background

In May 1990, The Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) merged with the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) to form today’s contemporary state of Yemen. The country did not unify successfully, however, and Yemen’s recent history is marked by political, tribal and religious conflict. During the Yemen Uprising of 2011-12, thousands of pro-democracy protesters flocked to the streets to demand the resignation of the president. In September 2014, rebel Houthis said to be backed by Iran, seized control of Yemen’s capital. In support of the Yemeni government, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries started a bombing campaign against the Houthi insurgents and the U.S. provided logistical and intelligence support. Despite a Saudi-led coalition cease-fire in Yemen, Houthi rebels claim that they will continue fighting until the coalition stops conducting airstrikes. Indiscriminate assaults on civilians by both sides and blockades have exacerbated the disaster, preempted multiple cholera outbreaks, and have driven the population to the brink of famine. Often called the “forgotten war,” receiving minimal Western media coverage relative to Syria, the situation in Yemen is now catastrophic.

What Nonprofits Need to Know

Below in the blue is an overview of the humanitarian and peacebuilding needs in Yemen. In the red are the primary sanctioned groups presently operating there. Because U.S. law prohibits the provision of “material support” to listed terrorists individuals and groups as well as engaging in trade with sanctioned persons and entities, the presence of these groups and sanctions programs can impact the delivery of aid and peacebuilding programs. The list below is non-exhaustive and changes frequently, so it is important for nonprofits to check all partners and those with whom they engage in transactions against, at a minimum, the U.S. Specially Designated National (SDN) and the United Nations Security Council Consolidated lists. Below the charts is information on OFAC licenses, where applicable, and links to our research and advocacy, and other relevant information.  

Humanitarian &
Peacebuilding Needs

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, 24 million of Yemen’s 30 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

Natural Hazards: Heavy rainfalls, destructive landslides, and floods affect the lives of thousands. In October 2018, Yemen was hit by “Luban” cyclone and forced 2,000 households to leave their homes.

Food Security and Nutrition: More than 20 million people are food insecure, and nearly half are suffering from extreme levels of hunger. In August 2020, the UN warned the country was again on the brink of full-scale famine.

Obstruction of Aid: According to HRW, both Yemeni officials and the armed group known as the Houthis are denying civilians the aid they need. The Houthis have blocked 262 containers in Hodeida port belonging to the World Health Organization.

Disease and Healthcare: The outbreak of cholera in Yemen infected a million people. In addition to cholera, other contagious diseases such as diphtheria are spreading in the country.

Ongoing Hostilities: Since March 2015, the coalition has conducted numerous indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes killing thousands of civilians and hitting civilian structures in violation of the laws of war. 

Displacement: According to UNHCR, there are 816,000IDPs and 11,350 refugees and asylum-seekers in Yemen.

al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): Formed in June 2009, this group is most active in southern, eastern, and central Yemen. It is designated as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and U.N.  More information here.

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham-Yemen (ISIS-Yemen): Formed in 2014, this branch of ISIL is primarily operational in southern and central Yemen. It is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and the UN under the UN ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List. More information here.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF): Formed in the 1980s, this group assists government forces in suppressing opposition forces and ISIS forces. It is designated as an FTO by the U.S. More information here.

Primary Terrorist Presence &
Other Sanctioned Groups

Access overview of U.S. Yemen-related sanctions here and the U.N. 2140 Sanctions Committee (Yemen) here.

“Any restrictions on imports, any restrictions on the movement of aid workers will only spiral Yemen further into the abyss.”

Sherin Varkey Deputy Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen

Licenses offered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces sanctions programs. It has a licensing process that allows transactions with sanctioned entities, including listed terrorist groups, that would otherwise be unlawful. Nonprofits that operate in areas affected by sanctions often apply for licenses from OFAC so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law, engage in peacebuilding activities and more. Find more information here.

Policy Reform

The Charity & Security Network advocates for change in national security measures to better support nonprofits working around the world. In fragile contexts, counterterrorism measures often impede humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations from accessing finance for their programs and serving populations in need. Find out more on our key issues below:

  • Find more information on Material Support here.
  • Find more information on Financial Access here.

Useful Links

last updated: May 6, 2020