Bracing for Impact: An Exploration of Premise’s Data on COVID-19 in Yemen

Bracing for Impact: An Exploration of Premise’s Data on COVID-19 in Yemen

By Emily Guthrie | Customer Success Manager

With already considerable restraints on the country’s healthcare system, the confirmation of Yemen’s first COVID-19 case on April 10, 2020 brings new worries about Yemenis’ access to critical health supplies, such as medications, hospital beds and life-saving equipment. 

Since 2015, Yemen has been engaged in a brutal civil war, resulting in the displacement of over 3.5 million people, and is now considered by the UN as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Currently, roughly 80 percent of Yemen’s population, or around 24 million people, is reliant on some form of humanitarian assistance. 

Recent developments in the country have further tested the resilience of Yemen’s population and led to increased concerns about if and how the population can meet critical needs, such as access to healthcare, food and livelihoods. In March, USAID and the World Food Programme announced a partial suspension of programs in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The suspension was in response to the group preventing UN agencies from using biometric testing and other methods used to verify the transfer of aid to the country’s most vulnerable citizens through humanitarian assistance programs. Moreover, mid-April marks the start of Yemen’s rainy season, which previous years have shown, is likely to bring an uptick in the number of cholera cases until the rains begin to subside in August. 

However, the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire last week, which was partially spurred by concerns over COVID-19, brings renewed hopes for peace as communities across the country brace for the impact of COVID-19. While the scale and effects of a possible COVID-19 outbreak are unknown, the ceasefire is an unprecedented opportunity for Yemenis, the international community and NGOs to establish resilient and comprehensive solutions. 

With a robust network of contributors across the country, Premise is uniquely positioned to collect data in Yemen, which is a notably challenging environment for both data collection and accurate analysis. Difficulties stem from the lack of data transparency, the politicization of data findings, restricted access to specific areas of the country because of security concerns, difficult terrain, and strict restrictions on physical access permits.

Understanding the Impact of COVID-19

Premise has been collecting data in Yemen since early 2019 allowing for a deeper understanding of daily life in communities across the country. In February 2020, we began asking our contributors to share how COVID-19 has impacted their communities, spending habits and concerns about the future.

Our data from Yemen shows that as of April 14, 38% of our network reported being “very concerned” about the spread of the virus in their community followed by 28% who reported being “concerned.”

Economic Impact

These concerns appear to be reflected in spending habits with roughly a quarter of contributors reporting having made purchases in preparation for COVID-19 and over half considering it. Moreover, Premise contributors also highlighted the impact of price gouging on goods and services with 22% reporting it had a “major effect,” 23%stating it had a “moderate impact,” and 26%stating it had a “minor effect.” Additionally, 41%of our network reported shortages on products and supplies in their local area.

Personal Safety Measures

Amongst users who reported shortages on products and supplies in their local area, breathing masks (74%), medicine (54%) and disinfectants (54%) were the most frequently reported items facing shortages. 

Through a close examination of user submissions in Yemen over the past few weeks, Premise was able to identify several instances of individuals wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in public spaces. However, it should be noted that the vast majority of photos recently submitted did not depict any individuals wearing masks or other protective gear.



A man wearing PPE outside of a hospital in Sana’a. Taken April 4.
Photo of a young girl wearing PPE in Sana’a. Taken in March.
Photo outside of a hospital in Ibb taken on April 12, including one man wearing PPE (right).

Social Distancing

In recent surveys, Premise contributors in Yemen indicated mixed views and practices with regard to social distancing. When asked about their willingness to be in public places, 22% and 25% reported that COVID-19 had a “major” and “moderate effect” respectively, with 19% stating it had had “no impact.” Moreover, 68% reported that either they or a member of their household had decided to stay home from work or school because of the virus.

While examining photo submissions from across Yemen, Premise likewise found mixed evidence of social distancing. For example, photos of schools and parks showed that a number of locations had been closed. The below examples show school and park locations that were recently closed.



Closed park in Ibb with a government closure notice.


The same park in Sana’a pictured on March 16 (left) and March 20 (right). Notice the handwashing poster on the top of the fence.


The same school in Sana’a is open on March 8 (left) and closed on April 1 (right).


However, despite concerns about the likely spread of COVID-19 in Yemen, markets in areas across the country appear open and show an overall lack of social distancing measures.

Crowded street market in Sana’a. Taken on April 11, 2020.

While the fate of COVID-19 in Yemen remains unknown, Premise will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground worldwide through surveys and thorough examination of photo submissions. To learn more about how Premise is tracking the effects of COVID-19 in our global networks, please visit If you would like to learn more about how Premise can help you get real-time insights from across the globe, email us at

About Emily Guthrie

Emily Guthrie, who is a Customer Success Manager in D.C., comes from an international development and humanitarian assistance programming background. She spent five years in Iraq working in education and peacebuilding and more recently supported food assistance, livelihoods and WASH programs in Yemen. At Premise, Emily focuses on project operations and delivery for public sector and international development projects.