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. In 2018, we worked in 13 hospitals and health centres across the country and provided support to more than 20 health facilities across 12 governorates.
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, MSF teams and facilities supported by MSF have treated more than 80,000 patients wounded by violence across 12 governorates. 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. Between 2015 and 2017 we 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.
The Yemeni health system is in a state of near-collapse: the population has very limited access to health facilities, either because they are damaged or not fully functioning. The direct consequences are the recent resurgence of outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles, a highly contagious viral disease and one of the leading causes of death among young children.
Surgeon Bernard Leménager guides us around the MSF field hospital in Mocha set up during the battle for Hodeidah, a city a couple of hours' drive from Mocha. It’s the only functioning surgical facility between the frontline and the hospitals further south in Aden.
MSF teams treated over 100 war-wounded in the city's Al Salakhana Hospital in the space of just a few weeks in November 2018.
Dr Chris Hook, from the MSF-supported Al Salakhana hospital in Hodeidah in November 2018: "The people that are left are mainly people who don’t have really anywhere else to go. It’s difficult for them to leave and we’ve seen patients who suffered injuries as a result of an attack as they tried to leave."Read more about the influx of war wounded seen as fighting intensified in Hodeidah, Hajjah, Saada and Taiz