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Sana’a Old City

Sana’a’ Old City, Yemen, May 7, 2017: The Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, dating back some 2,500 years. Located in a valley at 2,200 m above sea level, many of the characteristic ‘rammed earth’ buildings date back to Ottoman rule, which began in the early 1600s. (Photograph by Giles Clarke for UN OCHA/Getty Images)

Yemen: The invisible crisis, April-May 2017

After two years of relentless conflict, Yemen faces a humanitarian crisis quickly engulfing the majority of its population. According to the latest United Nations reports published this past April, an alarming 18.8 million people — almost two thirds of the population — need humanitarian assistance or protection support. Since mid-2015, when Houthi rebel forces took over the capital city of Sana’a, at least 3 million people have fled their homes from regions now embroiled in a prolonged ground war. As a result of the fighting, public services have broken down. Less than half of the health centers function, with medical supplies at a critically low supply. As of this past May, the 1.3 million-plus civil servants were entering an eighth month of not being paid. This statistic includes the thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics who continue to work despite the increasingly bleak future.

As almost all foreign media are banned from the country, it was through the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that Giles Clarke was given a month of rare access to document the declining humanitarian situation. In that time, he covered more than 2,200 km on the roads and visited many IDP (internationally displaced persons) settlements, hospitals and remote mountain towns. The physical beauty of Yemen is not lost on one while traveling, but the stories of pain, conflict and injury bear no relation to the spectacular rural landscapes. This is a country now deeply fractured by war, and unless there is some kind of peace agreement sometime soon, it seems very likely that the already desperate situation will plunge further into the abyss.

Photography and text by Giles Clarke for U.N. OCHA/Getty Images

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