Yemen: Dialysis Treatment at a Breaking Point

Malak Shaher/MSF

SANA’A, YEMEN/NEW YORK, JULY 26, 2016—The ongoing war and import restrictions in Yemen are taking a heavy toll on the country’s medical system, forcing cutbacks in lifesaving treatment for thousands of patients with kidney failure, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, calling for increased international support for Yemen’s dialysis centers.

MSF is providing medications and supplies that will be used to treat 660 dialysis patients over a six-month period. This support has reached four dialysis centers in most urgent need in Sana’a, Hajjah, Taiz and Al-Mahweet, but most of the 28 functioning dialysis centers in Yemen lack supplies, causing interruptions in treatment.

“Patients living with kidney failure in Yemen have been forgotten in this war,” said Crystal Vanleeuwen, MSF medical coordinator. “Health facilities are struggling to receive supplies, and the patients arriving at these centers aren’t able to receive adequate care because of this. If they can access the centers, if they can cross front lines, they arrive and find a lack of supply.”

MSF is calling on international organizations to support Yemen’s dialysis centers, which treat more than 4,400 patients with kidney failure. In many cases, patients who need three dialysis sessions per week are only able to receive two sessions.

“If patients do not get their weekly sessions, they will die. It’s as simple as that,” said Dr. Adel Al-Hagami, head of the dialysis treatment center in Al-Jumhori Hospital in Sana’a, which MSF is supporting. “We are overwhelmed as we receive patients coming from conflict areas.”

Yahya Abbas, a dialysis patient from near Dhamar, in southwestern Yemen, needed to move to Sana’a for treatment as his local dialysis center often lacked supplies or electricity. Even in Sana’a, the dialysis centers are crowded. “I ask whoever can help to help us with medications,” he said.

Since the current conflict began in March 2015, the health system has struggled to import sufficient supplies for the medical facilities that are still functioning. Now, Yemen’s dialysis centers are at a breaking point.

“There are treatment facilities in the country and adequate numbers of trained staff,” said William Turner, MSF head of mission in Yemen. “The imperative now is for these dialysis centers to receive regular medical supplies and continue to provide reliable, lifesaving treatment. The war has crippled the health system’s financial ability to import the necessary supplies, making the need for external support the highest priority.”

MSF is working in eight Yemeni governorates and has imported more than 1,400 tons of medical supplies and treated more than 41,000 war-wounded patients since March 2015.

There are more than 4,400 patients with renal failure in Yemen who are struggling to get weekly dialysis sessions to stay alive. To avoid potential death, patients rely on machines to clean their blood, something normally done by functioning kidneys. Those living with kidney failure normally should attend dialysis treatment sessions three times per week at four hours per session. In order for patients to receive treatment, treatment centres have to be functioning and supplies must be available. Most of the functioning dialysis centers in Yemen lack supplies causing interruptions in treatment to patients in need. And because of the pressure on the dialysis centres, most renal failure patients now receive only two weekly sessions instead of three in order for the dialysis centers to be able to accommodate all the patients they are receiving.
Malak Shaher/MSF