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Humanitarian Research Group; UNICEF; ISIC
Report | February 2017
Boufaied O., Delagarde C., Mikalsen J., Van Wassenhove L., Williams E. (2017). Humanitarian Agility in Action: UNICEF’s Response to the Yemen Crisis INSEAD.
The Arab spring of 2011 brought hope to Yemen – and then chaos. Political upheaval was followed by civil war between Houthi rebels from northern tribes (supported by Iran) and forces loyal to the deposed President Hadi (supported by Saudi Arabia). Eventually, on 26 March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of ten Arabic states began airstrikes on the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, and imposed both aerial and naval blockades on the country, plunging an already war-torn country into even deeper conflict.At this point, UNICEF had been operating highly efficiently in Yemen for more than a decade, with a country office in Sana’a and five field offices nationwide. Only a limited range of goods were available locally in Yemen, so most supplies had to be shipped into the country. This process was organised by UNICEF’s global Supply Division (SD) in Copenhagen, while transportation within Yemen was handled by the Yemen Country Office (YCO). The Middle East and North African Regional Office (MENARO) in Jordan also played a support role in logistics, with two regional warehouses located in Amman (Jordan) and Mersin (Turkey).When the Coalition began to bomb ports and airports, UNICEF’s well-oiled supply chain ground to a sudden halt. At the same time, escalating hostilities only increased the need for humanitarian aid, as food, water, fuel and medicines were in even shorter supply.UNICEF’s immediate problem was how to get relief shipments into Yemen, as it was not clear who could give them permission to enter the country or how long the situation would last. To make this task even more difficult, the decision was taken to evacuate all of UNICEF’s international staff to the Regional Office in Jordan, leaving only a skeleton team of Yemeni nationals in Sana’a.Working through its office in Saudi Arabia, UNICEF gained permission to land a planeload of emergency aid at Sana’a Airport. However, after multiple withdrawals of fly-over or landing permissions from several countries, a stop-over in Djibouti, a change of planes and five permit applications to the Coalition, the cargo was finally unloaded in Sana’a on 10 April. One simple delivery had taken eight days of intense work and frustrated hopes.