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Country Reports

Yemen Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Yemen's political and security climate continues to be volatile and the majority of Western governments continue to officially advise against all travel to the country. Yemen (population 27 million) is a poor country with a precarious political situation and an ongoing civil war, launched in 2015. The country faces daily threats of terrorism, kidnappings (particularly of Westerners), and violence linked to the ongoing conflict.

POLITICS

Yemen remains politically unstable. There is an ongoing civil war between Shi'a insurgents, led by Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, and the government. In January 2015, the rebels captured the Presidential Palace, taking de facto control of Sana'a. The advances made by the Houthi rebels have forced the president to flee, first to Aden and then to Saudi Arabia.

Faced by Houthi advances in the center, north, and south of the country, Saudi Arabia assembled a coalition of Arab states in late March 2015 and began air strikes with the goal of halting the rebels' progress. Coalition operations have greatly contributed to the retreat of the Houthis, who have since been put on the defensive in the south and east of Sana'a.

The intense aerial bombardment carried out by the coalition has led to a large number of victims, both civilian and military, with the heavy civilian toll inciting significant international criticism. The most deadly attack to date took place in Sana'a on October 8, 2016, when an airstrike struck a funeral, causing more than 140 deaths.

At this time, the main conflict centers are Ta'iz (south of Sana'a), which has been under siege for more than 18 months, the west of the country around Mukha, as well as along the Saudi-Yemeni border in the Saudi provinces of Najran, Asir, and Jizan. The coalition air campaign has put significant pressure on Houthi positions. There are also frequent skirmishes with terrorist groups, such as Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Since the beginning of this foreign military intervention, more than 10,000 people are believed to have died.

TERRORISM

AQAP advances in Yemen have further eroded security in the country. Violent clashes between the Yemeni military and jihadi fighters are frequent in Hadhramawt (east). In early December 2015, AQAP fighters managed to entrench their positions in the east of the country after violent clashes with security forces, capturing the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar (east of Aden). Since then, government forces have retaken Zinjibar but the terrorist cells' capacity to carry out strikes remains intact.

The threat of terrorism remains high in many areas of the country. This threat has further increased with the rise of the Islamic State (IS), which has called upon its followers to organize attacks against Western citizens and interests in the Middle East. Apart from the threat posed by the Yemeni branch of Al-Qa'ida, one of the most active branches of the terrorist organization, IS has increased its presence in the east of the country. The group has carried out numerous attacks in Sana'a and other cities, including Aden, where the governor was killed in an IS attack in December 2015. On May 23, 2016, two IS suicide attacks targeted Aden's Khormaksar neighborhood, killing more than 50 people. Suicide attacks against Yemeni forces in Aden on December 10 and 18, 2016, killed over 100 and injured 130.

As a result of the renewed threat from AQAP and the beginning of the Trump administration, US efforts to degrade the militant group were intensified in 2017; in late January, a raid by US Special Forces against an AQAP camp in Bayda governorate, the first "boots on the ground" raid in Yemen by the US since the beginning of the current conflict in 2015, drew local and international criticism over the high loss of civilian life.

KIDNAPPING

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped over the past 15 years. The governorates of Saada, Mareb, Shabwah, Abyan, Lahej, Jawf, and Hadramout are particularly at risk. Kidnappings are done by criminal, terrorist, and rebel organizations.

A few examples:

  • In December 2014, members of Al-Qa'ida executed one American and one South African hostage, both of whom were kidnapped in eastern Yemen in late 2013.
  • In August 2015, a French citizen kidnapped in Sana'a was freed after months of captivity.
  • On December 1, 2015, a Franco-Tunisian national working for the Red Cross International Committee was kidnapped in Sana'a. She was freed on October 3, 2016, following a UN-led negotiation process.
  • Indian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in Aden in March 2016. In May 2017 Uzhunnalil appeared in a video appealing for the Indian government to assist in his release.
  • In September 2016, an American professor was kidnapped in Sana'a.

TRANSPORTATION

Due to the ongoing conflict, Sana'a's El Rahaba International Airport (SAH) is only open to humanitarian and military flights and those with specific authorization. It is subject to closures on short notice.

Main roads are in good condition but can be dangerous in rainy weather and at night. It is strongly advisable to hire a chauffeur car. Fuel shortages are common.  

Piracy threatens all those traveling by sea along the Yemeni coast. The Gulf of Aden as a whole remains very unstable as a result of the structural weakness of Yemen and its neighboring states. Emirati and American ships have also been targeted by missiles, likely launched from Houthi land positions.

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Yemen is experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis linked to the prevailing political instability, the ongoing violence, and the blockade imposed by the international coalition.

As a result, famine is affecting all regions controlled by the rebels and those suffering from de facto blockades imposed by the coalition and a major cholera outbreak in a large number of the country's governorates has been described as "unprecedented."

The UN has reported that since March 2015, an average of 113 people have been killed or injured every day in Yemen. These are people who are also mostly unable to meet their food needs and who lack access to clean water and sanitation. As many as 3.5 million Yemenis are also either internally displaced persons or refugees who have fled to other countries.

HEALTH

The security situation in Yemen explains the serious deterioration of the already limited sanitary infrastructure throughout the country, as well as the shortages of medicine and treatments needed to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Coalition airstrikes have repeatedly hit medical infrastructure managed by NGOs, further worsening the humanitarian situation.

Tap water is not safe to drink in Yemen. The country is currently in the midst of a major cholera epidemic. More than 500,000 suspected cases were reported between late April and mid-August 2017, causing nearly 2000 deaths. To reduce the risk of contamination, it is imperative to wash your hands regularly and carefully, drink only purified or bottled water, and avoid raw or undercooked foods.

The number of cases of dengue fever has soared since late 2015, particularly in southern and central Yemen (Ta'iz region).

Rabies, leishmaniosis (transmitted by insect bites or animal bites), and scabies are also present.

An outbreak of polio is also affecting the country. 

If your trip will last more than one month, a certificate stating that you do not have HIV is required.

LEGAL

Since 2010, Yemen has not issued tourist visas and special authorization is needed to enter the country. Travelers with Israeli stamps on their passports will not be granted entry.

Yemen is a Muslim country and visitors should be respectful of Islamic rites and customs (women should cover at least their arms and legs). It is forbidden to smoke, eat, or drink in public during the day during the month of Ramadan.

While a certain tolerance exists, importing alcohol is strongly discouraged and the risk of confiscation is high.

Climate

Yemen, with the exception of the desert zones in the north and the east of the country, experiences a rainy season which lasts from March until August. The climate is hot and humid along the coast and can be very unpleasant in July and August. Conditions are the most pleasant between December and February. Along the reliefs, temperatures are more temperate with humid summers and dry winters. At high elevations (2000 meters), temperatures vary considerably between day and night.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 967 Police: 199 Tourist police in Sanaa: 00 967 1 226 623

Electricity

Voltage: 220/230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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