Recent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and diphtheria and an upsurge in fighting have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. More than three million people have been displaced since the war started in 2015. With an estimated 20 million in need of humanitarian assistance, our activities in Yemen are among our most extensive worldwide. We work in 13 hospitals and health centres in 12 governorates and support 20 public health facilities across the country.
Warring parties have destroyed much of the country's public infrastructure, including health facilities. Following the imposition of a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) in 2015, import restrictions coupled with high inflation have crippled Yemenis’ access to healthcare and other essential services. Furthermore, many of the country’s 50,000 health workers have not been paid since August 2016 and have consequently left the public health system, forced to look for other sources of income.
Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015 and until the end of 2017, MSF treated more than 72,000 patients wounded by violence in our medical facilities and MSF-supported clinics. According to the Yemen Data Project, more than 16,000 air raids have been recorded in the last three years - roughly 15 a day.
Even where medical facilities are operational, most people are no longer able to afford the transport costs to go to them. This means they are unable to seek timely care, and easily curable health conditions are turning deadly when left untreated. Women often give birth at home and seek care only when complications occur. Malnutrition among children also remains high.
We opened 37 cholera treatment centres and oral rehydration points and admitted 101,475 patients in response to a cholera outbreak in 2017. As a result of the war it is even harder for people to access clean water, dispose of waste and get medical care. As the cholera epidemic subsided, we began to see cases of diphtheria, a disease eradicated from most countries thanks to systematic childhood vaccinations. The last case in Yemen had been recorded in 1992.
MSF teams performed 19,728 surgical interventions in Yemen during 2017. We saw an increase in the number of patients admitted to the emergency surgical hospital we run in Aden, not only from the frontlines, but also due to an upsurge in violence within the city.
Since 2015, four of Yemen’s 32 kidney treatment centres have been forced to close. The 28 remaining centres are running out of essential supplies, so treatment is often interrupted. We support six dialysis treatment centres and over the past two years have imported more than 800 tons of dialysis supplies and provided over 83,000 dialysis sessions for some 800 patients. More than 4,400 renal failure patients remain in urgent need of care.
3 questions in 3 minutes to understand the humanitarian situation in Yemen
Dr Mercedes Tatay, MSF International Medical Secretary, back from Yemen gives a round up of the medical and humanitarian situation, MSF's activities and the global aid response.