The war in Yemen has inflicted terrible costs on civilians and pushed the health care system to the brink of collapse. Over half of the country’s medical facilities are closed, and many others are too damaged or lacking in personnel or needed supplies to provide care.
Yemenis trying to reach a functioning health care facility may face checkpoints, land mines, or snipers en route. Many people have to choose between using scarce funds to pay for medicine or food to feed their families.
Since the conflict escalated in March 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has significantly expanded activities in Yemen. MSF treated more than 718,000 emergency room patients from March 2015 to December 2017. Teams treated more than 72,000 patients for war wounds and other intentional physical violence over the same period.
In 2017, teams responded to the largest cholera epidemic in the world, caring for more than 101,475 patients at cholera treatment centers. The collapse of the public health system could lead to a resurgence of cholera, and the spread of other epidemics such as diphtheria and measles. MSF is also responding to growing malnutrition and food insecurity.
MSF is calling for greater international support for the public health system, including to pay the salaries of health workers. Ministry of Health staff have not been paid since August 2016, creating serious staffing shortages at a time of critical needs.
The war has had a terrible impact on mental health. MSF psychologists and counselors offer support to the victims of violence and their families.
Even those not directly harmed by violence suffer from the effects of the war. The lives of many chronically ill people are endangered when they cannot get the drugs they need. MSF works to make sure that as many people as possible get those lifesaving treatments.
This work can be difficult and dangerous as health facilities have repeatedly been targeted amid widespread attacks on civilians.
The blockade, which began in 2015 and was strengthened in December 2017, affects imports of commercial goods and some humanitarian aid. It has restricted access to food, water, and health care for Yemenis—and put increased pressure on an already weak economy. MSF has repeatedly insisted on the need for a wider reopening of sea ports and airports for commercial goods.
MSF first started working in Yemen in 1986. Today, Yemen is one of our largest projects with approximately 1,900 staff, the vast majority are national staff. As of December 2017, teams worked in 13 hospitals and health centers and provided support to more than 20 health facilities across the country—on both sides of the front line.