Yemen: Crisis Update November 2019

Cholera response in Khamer, Amran hospital

Yemen 2019 © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

After almost five years of war, Yemenis are struggling to access and afford even the most basic commodities. Indiscriminate bombings and chronic shortages of supplies and staff have led to the closure of many of Yemen's health facilities and the collapse of its health system. Recent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and diphtheria and an upsurge in fighting have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation. Millions of people have fled their homes over the course of the conflict. 

Due to the scale of the crisis, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) activities in Yemen are among our most extensive worldwide. Currently, MSF works in 12 hospitals and health centers across Yemen and provides support to more than 20 other health facilities in Abyan, Aden, Amran, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Ibb, Lahj, Saada, Sana’a, Shabwah, Taiz, and Marib governorates. 

MSF medical figures: March 2015 to September 2019 

• People treated in MSF facilities for injuries related to war and violence: 161,982 

• Emergency room patients received in MSF facilities and MSF-supported facilities: 1,213,677 

• Surgical interventions: 101,817 

• Children admitted to pediatric wards for needs other than violent injuries: 151,368 

• Deliveries: 90,886 

• General consultations for internally displaced people: 233,311 

• Suspected cholera cases treated: 143,467 

Malaria cases treated: 25,039 

Malnutrition cases treated: 23,319 

• Tons of medical supplies received by MSF: 8,124 

Total MSF staff: 

• More than 2,500 staff members

• Approximately 1,175 Yemeni Ministry of Health staff receiving monthly compensation from MSF

• Total MSF budget for 2019: €63,000,000 ($69,804,000)

Violence against medical staff and facilities 

Since March 2015, civilians, medical staff, and health facilities have been repeatedly attacked by all warring parties in Yemen. MSF hospitals have been hit by Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition (SELC) airstrikes five times and once by an unknown attacker, impeding our ability to treat civilians. 

Recently, armed individuals shot and killed a patient and injured a medical staff member in an attack on the emergency room of the MSF-supported al-Thawra General Hospital in Taiz city. Several shells have also landed near the hospital in recent months. Intensifying fighting in Taiz complicates access to lifesaving health services for residents of the city. 

In late October, The Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition belatedly acknowledged its responsibility for a deadly 2016 strike on the MSF-supported Shiara hospital in Razeh, northern Yemen, blaming it on a "projectile malfunction" while continuing to avoid true accountability for this and other violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen. 

MSF’s own investigation into the incident, completed in March 2016, concluded that there was no justifiable or legitimate reason for the attack, including in cases of error or negligence, as the hospital remained protected according to international humanitarian law. 

Displacement in Hajjah governorate 

MSF teams have noted a continuous increase in patients seeking health care in Abs hospital, due in part to ongoing fighting in the north of the district. More than 20,000 people were displaced in the first half of 2019, and sporadic displacements continue in Abs district, which already hosts about 100,000 internally displaced people. Abs Rural Hospital is the only facility providing lifesaving specialized health care to more than 1.2 million people living in Abs and the surrounding districts. 

Many of these people lack the most basic services, including drinking water, food, shelter, and access to medical care. MSF is concerned about a further escalation of fighting, which could displace more than 400,000 people.