Conflict is fueling a massive humanitarian crisis

Eight-month-old Raghad is at the ambulatory therapeutic feeding center in MSF's Mother and Child Hospital in Al Houban, Taiz, for the fourth time.
YEMEN 2016 © Trygve Thorson/MSF
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The war in Yemen has taken a terrible toll on civilians and pushed the health care system to the brink of collapse. More than half of the country’s medical facilities are closed, and many others are too damaged or lacking in personnel or supplies to provide care.

Yemenis trying to reach a functioning health care facility might face checkpoints, land mines, or snipers en route. Many people must 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 973,000 emergency room patients from March 2015 to October 2018. Teams treated more than 91,000 patients for war wounds and other intentional physical violence over the same period.

cholera cases*

A decimated health care system 

Years of conflict have left Yemen’s health care system in a state of de-facto collapse, sparking a resurgence of cholera (MSF treated more than 101,500 cases in 2017, the largest cholera epidemic in the world at the time), and the spread of other epidemics such as diphtheria and measles (MSF treated 1,787 cases in 2018.) Are teams are also responding to growing rates malnutrition linked to food insecurity. The closure of Sanaa’s airport has prevented even people with the means to leave from seeking treatment abroad, and has complicated the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

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 need. 

Living in a minefield

In southwest Yemen, thousands of land mines and improvised explosive devices are killing and maiming civilians. From August to December 2018, MSF teams in the city of Mocha on Yemen’s Red Sea coast treated more than 150 people wounded by mines, improvised explosive devices, and unexploded ordnance—one-third of them children who had been playing in fields.

Medical needs across Yemen

Years of war have had a catastrophic 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 conflict. 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 ongoing blockade by the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition (SELC), which began in 2015, affects the import 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 2,200 staff, the vast majority of whom are national staff. As of October 2018, teams worked in 123 hospitals and health centers and provided support to more than 20 health facilities across the country—on both sides of the front lines.

*March 2015 to October 2018