Yemen is currently facing major challenges: refugee and migration flows from the Horn of Africa; internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the conflicts in the north and other regions of the country; a separatist movement and violent unrest in the south of the country; water shortages and drought; natural disasters; widespread poverty and underemployment and a major security problem caused by the presence of Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula. In addition, the "Arab Spring" has spread to Yemen and resulted in violent clashes.

Lacking sufficient national resources, Yemen requires foreign aid to cope with the various inflows of refugees. The SDC opened a programme office in Sana’a in February 2011.


Over the past few years, the flow of refugees from the Horn of Africa has continued to rise. Unlike the years prior to 2009 more people have arrived from Ethiopia than from Somalia (2010: 2-to-1 ratio). Nevertheless, Somali nationals still constitute the bulk of refugees and migrants in Yemen. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Somali nationals account for half of the 300,000 refugees officially registered by the UNHCR (the actual figures appear to be higher, however).

People are fleeing the ongoing conflict that broke out in 2004 between Yemeni government forces and Shiite Houthi rebels in the northern province of Sa'ada. As violent clashes intensify in other parts of the country, the number of IDPs has risen to about 350,000, according to UNHCR estimates. The lack of shelters and facilities to accommodate this influx has exacerbated tensions between displaced groups and the local population. Despite an already difficult economic situation, the local population has had to contend with a large number of IDPs and refugees.

Switzerland has taken the following measures to address the growing challenges to international cooperation in Yemen:

  • In February 2011, the SDC opened a programme office in Sana'a to improve access to information about humanitarian needs and monitor Swiss contributions more effectively.
  • Having initially provided support to Yemen primarily through multilateral channels, the SDC now runs a bilateral programme that combines humanitarian aid measures with development cooperation projects.
  • The SDC actively takes part in development policy and humanitarian dialogue with national and international partners (donor harmonisation)
  • The "Protection in the Region" approach forms the basis for Switzerland's interdepartmental commitment in Yemen, and pursues the following objectives:
    i) ensure that persons in need receive effective protection in their countries of origin;
    ii) strengthen the capacities of host countries to afford protection to refugees to enable them to meet their international commitments;
    iii) reduce irregular onward migration to Europe, thereby reducing the number of asylum applications filed in Switzerland;
    iv) promote bilateral dialogue.

Over the next few years, the SDC intends to work closely with the FDFA's Directorate of Political Affairs and other federal agencies to coordinate support for projects and organisations in Yemen. In addition, the SDC will provide SHA experts and funding to international organisations.