Expert analysis

29 July 2022

The truce in Yemen: Opportunities and challenges for IDPs

A four month nationwide truce in Yemen has provided much needed relief to people across the country and opened a rare window of opportunity for millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) and those at risk of displacement. It has reduced the number of people fleeing the conflict and improved the humanitarian situation. It is, however, a fragile truce. Prospects for further extensions and sustainable peace are uncertain. Violations have been recorded and humanitarian needs remain alarmingly high. Policymakers and humanitarian organisations should push for another extension beyond early August and, more importantly, intensify efforts to bring about a permanent resolution to Yemen’s conflict and displacement crisis. 

Protracted and repeated displacement 

Yemen entered its eighth year of war in 2022 with around 23.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and around 4.3 million IDPs, many of whom have been displaced for years. Many have also been displaced more than once, whether as a result of the conflict or disasters.  

The truce followed months of escalating hostilities in the second half of 2021. Thousands of people were killed and injured as Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthi movement, made territorial gains across several areas. The fighting triggered 377,000 displacements in 2021 as frontlines shifted in Marib, Al Jawz, Shabwah, Taizz and Al Hudaydah. Some sites in Marib recorded a ten-fold increase in the number of IDPs between October and December. Disasters triggered a further 84,000 displacements during the year.  

Fewer displacements and civilian casualties 

After months of intense fighting inside Yemen and cross-border attacks by Ansar Allah in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a two month truce was negotiated and entered into force on 2 April. It was extended for two months on 2 June, the day it had been due to expire. It has led to a reduction in fighting, displacement and civilian casualties, and the humanitarian situation in the country has improved. Fuel ships have also been able to dock in Al Hudaydah and Sanaa airport has reopened.  

Around 232,000 displacements were recorded across the country between January and June 2022, of which 153,000 took place between January to March, and 79,000 between April and June. This means the truce led to a quarterly reduction of almost 50 per cent. The number of displacements is, however, still high. The figure for the first six months of 2022 is a reduction from that recorded in the second half of 2021, when the conflict intensified and triggered 260,000 displacements, but it is still 40 per cent higher than in the first half of 2021, when 133,000 displacements were recorded. 

While conflict accounted for most internal displacements in the first half of the year, disasters continue to force people to flee their homes and trigger secondary displacement. Heavy rain and floods in June destroyed the tents and shelters of thousands of IDPs across the country. IDPs frequently live in precarious shelter conditions and are more vulnerable to natural hazards.  

Opportunities, challenges and recommendations 

The truce has raised hopes of an end to the conflict across Yemen and helped to alleviate some of the population’s suffering. It will, however, expire on 2 August unless it is extended or the peace process otherwise revitalised, creating uncertainty over the next steps and the longer-term future.  

There are many challenges left to address. Clashes have continued despite the truce and humanitarian access has improved but insecurity and bureaucratic restrictions still hinder the delivery of aid in some areas. The humanitarian response in Yemen is also gravely underfunded at a time when millions of people are still displaced, food and oil prices are rising and food insecurity is increasing. Due to rising costs and lack of funds, some humanitarian programmes are being scaled back at a time when they are essential and should be expanded. 

The international community should push for another extension of the ceasefire in order to further alleviate the population’s suffering and prevent more internal displacement. More efforts are also needed to ensure compliance with the truce and to prevent further violations and, more importantly, to secure lasting peace. Women are currently underrepresented in the negotiations and additional steps should be taken to ensure their voices are heard. Alongside attempts to ease and end the fighting, further investments in disaster prevention and response measures are essential, as IDPs displaced by conflict are more vulnerable to secondary displacement by disasters.   

Donors should increase their funding of the humanitarian response, including of durable solutions programming to address the protracted displacement crisis in Yemen and help IDPs achieve an end to their displacement. People’s basic needs are far from being met, and until they are the crisis will only deepen.