Yemen Population and Language

By | July 30, 2020

Alongside Saudi Arabia, Yemen has the largest population of the Arabian Peninsula, over 28 million residents in 2017. Although population growth is not as high as in the 1990s, the population has continued to grow, making children and young people a very large part of the country’s population. But several years of brutal warfare have resulted in very high death rates among children.

The population is concentrated on the coastal plains and the more fertile valleys of the highlands, mainly in the west. Most live in small villages, only a third of Yemenis live in cities.

Yemen Population Pyramid 2020

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Yemen, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.

The vast majority are Arabs. There is also a small minority of black Yemenites, known as akhdam (servants) or muhamashin, who often live in urban slums.

Customer affiliation is of great importance, especially in the highlands of the north. There are about thirty clans that have grouped themselves into two large federations, hashid and bakil. A little further south, people belonging to the madhij clans live. Even the southern part of Yemen has a complicated system of clans. Conflicting interests of clans occasionally trigger violent clashes and have had significance for the armed contradictions that have led to full war, with the involvement of neighboring countries (see Current Policy).

Since the early 1990s, tens of thousands of people have fled to Yemen from the unrest in the Horn of Africa. The flow of refugees has risen sharply since 2006, when violence was escalated again in Somalia. Most of the refugees want to travel to countries on the Persian Gulf or to Europe, but they often stay in Yemen, where many of them live in difficult conditions. Hundreds die every year as they try to cross the Gulf of Aden (see Calendar). The overwhelming majority of refugees are Somalis, around 95 percent. There are also small groups of Ethiopians, Iraqis and Syrians.

Yemen Population and Language

Above all, as a result of the war of recent years, there are several million internal refugees in Yemen. At the beginning of 2019, the UNHCR estimated the number to 3.9 million people. Four-fifths of them had been waiting for over a year to return home.

Virtually all Yemenis speak Arabic. In teaching, media and written text, so-called standard Arabic (fusha) is used, which is based on the language of the Qur’an and is common to all Arab countries. It differs from the Arabic spoken in everyday life. There are also dialectal differences between northern and southern Yemen. Two small minority languages ​​are closely related to local Arabic: mahri, spoken in southeastern Yemen, and suqutri, spoken on the island of Suqutra.



Arabs and small minorities of Indians, Somalis and Akhdam (black Yemenites)

Number of residents

28 250 420 (2017)

Number of residents per square kilometer

54 (2017)

Percentage of residents in the cities

36.0 percent (2017)

Nativity / birth

31.6 per 1000 residents (2016)

Mortality / mortality

6.5 per 1000 residents (2016)


2.4 percent (2017)

fertility rate

4.0 number of births per woman (2016)

Percentage of women

49.5 percent (2017)

Life expectancy

65 years (2016)

Life expectancy for women

66 years (2016)

Life expectancy for men

64 years (2016)


Arabic is the official language



Cluster bombs near schools

December 23

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch states that the Saudi-led coalition in attacks near two schools used cluster bombs that are banned by the UN. Cluster bombs contain many small explosive charges that spread over a large area at the impact. Some of the charges do not explode directly but pose a danger for a long time to come. Saudi Arabia has not signed on to the International Convention on Cluster Bombs and claims to have used such bombs in “limited quantities”.

Over two million children are malnourished

13th of December

The UN Children’s Fund Unicef ​​reports that almost 2.2 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished. More than 460,000 are reported to suffer from severe acute malnutrition. The location is the worst in the home province of the Huthirebels Saada in the north where 8 out of 10 children are malnourished in certain areas. According to Unicef, a child now dies every ten minutes in Yemen as a result of malnutrition and diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory infections.


The Huthi rebels form their own government

November 28

The rebels announce that they have formed a “national rescue government” in the areas they control. Former President Saleh’s supporters receive the ministerial posts for defense, domestic and foreign affairs while the rebels take care of other posts. The measure is condemned by the UN envoy to Yemen, which is working to establish a unifying government between the rebels and representatives of the internationally recognized government under President Hadi. Hadi himself says that the formation of the rebel government “destroys all chances for dialogue and peace”.

Armistice leads no one

November 19

A 48-hour ceasefire, which comes after pressure from the US, temporarily dampens the violence, but when it expires, the fighting resumes with full force.

The Huthi rebels are accused of torture and disappearance

November 17

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch accuses the huthirebels and their allies of having committed arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances since taking over the capital in the fall of 2014.

More than 7,000 killed by the war

November 7

The World Health Organization WHO states that over 7,000 people lost their lives and nearly 37,000 were injured as a result of the war. 2.1 million have been flown inland. According to the WHO, more than half of the country’s health care facilities are completely or partially closed. 21 of the country more than 26 million residents are said to be in need of health care.


Rebels want to discuss peace plan

October 30th

The Huthirebels say that while the UN peace plan has “fundamental flaws”, it can still be the basis for discussions. Above all, they are against the plan saying nothing about a permanent cease-fire or assuming that the blockade against rebel-controlled areas should be lifted.

Saudi flight fears against prison

October 29th

At least 60 people are killed in an air raid against a defense establishment in the rebel-controlled port city of al-Hudayda (Hodeida) executed by the Saudi-led coalition. Several of the dead are prisoners in a prison in the facility.

The president rejects UN plans

October 29th

According to information leaked, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed proposes that a new post as vice president be created after the Huhirebels left Sanaa and other cities and handed over their heavy weapons to a neutral force. According to the proposal, President Hadi will hand over all the executive power to the Vice President and appoint a new prime minister to form a government with equal numbers of representatives for northern and southern Yemen. Hadi himself would only retain purely symbolic powers. But Hadi says the peace plan “only opens the door to more suffering and war”. He is said to have refused to even receive the plan at a meeting in Saudi Arabia with Cheikh Ahmed.

No extension of the armistice

October 23

The UN in vain appeals to the parties to the war to extend the ceasefire. As soon as the three-day ceasefire expired, ground fighting and Saudi-led air strikes resumed.

UN experts criticize Saudi attack

October 20

An expert panel working on behalf of the UN accuses Saudi Arabia of violating international humanitarian law in the attack on a funeral in Sanaa on October 8. The experts have found no evidence that the Saudis tried to minimize civilian harm.

Fighting under armistice

October 20

The ceasefire begins as planned the night of October 20, but sporadic fighting is still being reported. Both sides accuse each other of violating the ceasefire.

The UN is pushing for a ceasefire

October 17

The government and the Saudi-led coalition announce that they will observe the three-day ceasefire on the UN’s appeal from October 20. The Iran-backed Huthirbels welcome the ceasefire, but demand that the Saudi alliance also lift all barriers to air, sea and land transport. The UN Security Council is calling for an end to the “blockade against the Yemeni people” so that aid organizations can reach out to the needy population in hard-to-reach parts of the country.

“Mistake Bomb Burial”

15 October

The Saudi-led coalition admits that one of its pilots “accidentally” attacked a funeral in Sanaa on October 8 when more than 140 people were killed. The coalition’s military leadership says that “appropriate action” should be taken against those who caused the mistake and that victims’ relatives should be offered compensation. More than 100 of the most seriously injured are flown to Oman to receive care.

The United States is attacking rebel targets

October 13

US cruise missiles destroy three radar stations in rebel-controlled territory. This is the first time that the United States has directly attacked the skinhead bells. The United States in various ways supports the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes but does not participate in the raids. The US attack occurs after missiles are fired from a rebel controlled area against US warships off the coast of Yemen. The vessels were fired on two occasions but were not hit. The rebels refuse to have fired the missiles.

Many dead when attacked for burial

October 8

More than 140 people are killed and over 525 are injured in a plane attack against a building where a funeral is taking place in the capital Sanaa. The Huthi rebels accuse the Saudi-led coalition of the attack. At the funeral, a number of high ranking members of the rebel movement and its allies were killed. The coalition denies and says it will launch an investigation into the incident with US experts in Yemen. The UN Secretary-General condemns the attack triggering demonstrations in the capital. A week later, Saudi Arabia acknowledges that one of the coalition’s plan carried out the attack by mistake.

Rival governments

October 4th

The Huthi rebels announce that they have formed a national rescue government to counterbalance the internationally recognized government in the port city of Aden in the south. The head of government will be Abdel Aziz Ben Habtoor, who was previously governor of Aden and a member of the Politburo in the old power party General Public Congress. Since its Saudi-led coalition in March 2015 launched its air strikes, the Huthirbels have lost a large part of the areas they have occupied in the south but still hold large parts of the coast towards the Red Sea in the west as well as the capital and surrounding areas. 6,600 people are estimated to have lost their lives in the war so far and more than three million are on the run.


The exile government again in Aden

September 22

Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher moves to the port city with seven ministers. The head of government says that he has now left Riyadh, where he has mainly resided, for good and intends to stay in Aden.


Large bombing against army base

August 29th

At least 40 people lose their lives when a suicide bomber drives into a car loaded with explosives at a military training camp in the port city of Aden where the government has its base.

New American Peace Plan

August 25th

US Secretary of State John Kerry presents a new plan for resumed talks with a view to establishing a unifying government. The plan is welcomed in cautious terms by the government side.

Flight attacks against hospitals

August 15th

Nineteen people die when coalition bombs hit a hospital in Abs, in the rebel-controlled province of Hajja in northwestern Yemen. A few days later, the NGO Doctors Without Borders decides to withdraw its staff from six hospitals in Yemen. The organization accuses the Saudi-led alliance of bombing the plants “indiscriminately”.

Attack on Yemen resumes

9th of August

The Saudi-led alliance resumes its airstrikes. Fourteen people die when a factory in Sanaa meets, and the airport in the capital closes.

“Peace talks have collapsed”

August 6th

The Huthi rebels announce that the members of the new Governing Council (see July) have been appointed. The seats are shared equally between members of the Hire Movement and people belonging to ex-President Saleh’s party, the GPC General Public Congress. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed condemns the formation of the Council and announces that peace talks have finally been stranded. However, he says that attempts to get a new round of talks started in a month.


Peace plan dismissed by rebels

31 July

The government says it will accept a new peace plan put forward by the UN but the Huthi rebels reject it and place the formation of a unifying government as a condition. In a previous “roadmap” presented by UN Yemeni ambassador Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in June, such a unifying government was included, but it was rejected by the government. The new proposal largely reflects the wishes of the government.

The rebels form governing councils

July 28

The Huthi rebels with allies proclaim that they formed a ten-man strong “supreme council” to govern Yemen. When the news becomes known, the government side announces that it intends to leave the peace talks but the UN states that they will continue.

New conversations and battles

July 16

The peace talks are resumed in Kuwait but are accompanied by continued fighting and other acts of violence.


Pause in peace talks

June 29

Peace talks are put on ice for two weeks to resume on July 15. It happens after new acts of violence across Yemen have claimed over 80 lives, of which about half are civilians.

Warning of famine

21 June

The UN reports in a report that there is a shortage of food throughout Yemen and that over seven million people in the country are in an emergency due to nutritional deficiencies. Three million children are threatened by malnutrition. In addition to the ongoing civil war, the crisis, according to the UN, is caused by a shortage of fuel, import restrictions and increased grain prices.


The dialogue breaks down

May 17

The government side leaves the peace talks after accusing the Huthi rebels of not standing by. The government had demanded that the rebels and their allies acknowledge in writing UN Resolution 2216 on a retreat and the government’s Hadi legitimacy. After a week’s boycott, the government returns to the negotiating table.


Peace talks in Kuwait

April 21

After three days of delay, the planned peace talks begin in Kuwait’s capital. On site are the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, representatives of the Aden government as well as a delegation representing the Huthi rebels and forces close to ex-President Saleh. The issues to be discussed are the withdrawal of troops, the submission of heavy weapons, a political transition process and the release of prisoners. The government says the talks can only be successful if the rebels realize the content of the UN resolution2216 from April 2015 and which states that the rebels must withdraw from the areas they have laid down and join in disarmament. The Huthirebels, for their part, state that a prerequisite for them to meet the requirements of the resolution is that a unifying government is first formed.

Arms rest initiated

April 11

The warring parties are putting their weapons down as planned for the peace talks to be held in Kuwait later this month. However, it will not be long before both sides start accusing each other of violations of the ceasefire.

The head of government deposed

April 4th

President Hadi dismisses Prime Minister Khaled Bahah on the grounds that the government has failed to “reduce residents’ suffering, solve their problems and meet their needs”. Hadi appoints Ahmed bin Dagher as new head of government. Hadi has had its base in the port city of Aden since the fall of 2015, but the situation there is uncertain, which means that Hadi and the head of government are mostly in Saudi Arabia.


Armistice and peace talks

March 23rd

The UN envoy to Yemen announces that the warring parties have agreed on a new ceasefire from April 10 and that they are ready to start peace talks a week later. The peace talks will be held in Kuwait and based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which requires, among other things, that the Huthi rebels retire (see April 2015). The cease-fire message is followed by a prisoner exchange.

Bomb attack against the market

the 13th of March

Nearly 120 people lose their lives when the Saudi-led coalition bombs a market in the northern province of Hajja. The attack is one of the ones that demanded the most casualties during the conflict and the UN demands that the incident be investigated. According to the UN, the bombing of the Saudi-led coalition during the year that the war lasted has caused twice as many civilian deaths as the other forces combined.

Armistice along the border

March 9

A delegation of Yemeni clan leaders visits Saudi Arabia where the parties agree on an unofficial ceasefire along the common border. The settlement also includes an exchange of prisoners and the opportunity to bring supplies across the border. Analysts with the news agency AFP spoke to say that the agreement is the first important step taken to try to find a solution to the conflict.


At least 30 dead in air strikes against marketplace

February 27th

According to some sources, there are 60 dead in the attack. The Huthirebels say the Saudi-led alliance was behind the attack northeast of Sanaa, but no independent source can verify it.

Promise of Assistance

February 24th

At a donor conference in the United Arab Emirates, the Yemeni government promises over $ 220 million in three-year aid. The majority comes from the Red Crescent in Qatar as well as from an aid organization in Kuwait. The UN has once again warned of a human disaster in Yemen where the death toll exceeds 6 100 after eleven months of fighting. Around 2.5 million Yemenis have been forced to leave their homes.

“Hezbollah supports the rebels”

February 24th

The government accuses the Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla of being present in Yemen and training the rebels as well as planning attacks against Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia cooperates with Aqap”

February 22

A documentary filmmaker’s pictures show that the Saudi-led alliance is fighting with al-Qaeda supporters against the Huthi rebels, the BBC reports. The Saudis and their allies call al-Qaeda a terrorist organization and deny all cooperation.


The truce over

January 2

The ceasefire that has not led to any halt in the fighting is now also formally over, as reported by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government accuses the rebels of continuing grenade attacks against civilians and border guards on Saudi territory, among others.