More than eight years of war and chronic shortages of supplies and staff have led to a complex humanitarian crisis.
Our work in Yemen
Civilians continued to bear the brunt of more than eight years of conflict in Yemen. MSF provides lifesaving care to people injured or displaced by the fighting, as well as those suffering from malnutrition and lack of access to essential services.
People in Yemen face a perfect storm of humanitarian needs
Since the start of the war in Yemen more than eight years ago, tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured, and more than four million have been displaced. While the fighting itself has decreased following last year’s ceasefire, it’s left in its wake a worsening health and humanitarian crisis; there are shortages of medical supplies and staff, primary health care is often too expensive for people to access amid a collapsed economy, malnutrition rates were alarmingly high last year, and a lack of access to routine vaccination has led to outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles, tetanus, and diphtheria. People’s needs are intersecting here in a way that forms a perfect storm.
What's happening in Yemen?
The conflict and the recent escalation from the warring parties has increased the vulnerability of the Yemeni people. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) not only provided lifesaving care to people injured in these outbreaks of violence, but also treated patients suffering the long-term effects of war, such as mental health, malnutrition, and difficulties in accessing essential services such as mother and child care.
How we're helping in Yemen
Direct impacts of the war on health in Yemen
During 2021, we deployed teams to treat war-wounded patients across the country, from Mocha in the west to Marib in the east.
Our hospital in Mocha responded to multiple mass-casualty incidents in November as the frontline south of Hodeidah, where Ansar Allah is fighting a coalition of armed groups allied to the government, saw intense fighting.
The violence in Marib between Ansar Allah and Yemeni government forces was particularly fierce, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. The camps where they settled often lacked basic necessities such as food, water, and adequate shelter. In March, we launched an emergency intervention in Marib general hospital and worked throughout the year to help increase its capacity to deal with frequent influxes of war-wounded and other trauma patients.
Amidst this humanitarian crisis, our teams also saw increasing numbers of people with mental health issues caused by the fighting and its associated stresses and traumas. To respond to the needs, in May we opened a new specialized mental health clinic in Al-Jomhouri Authority hospital, in Hajjah city, where we provide psychoeducation, counseling, and psychotherapy, as well as psychiatric care for people with severe mental health conditions. Learn more about where your money goes and your impact by reading our accountability reports.
Mother and child care in Yemen
Timely access to safe and good-quality medical care for expectant mothers and newborns is a major issue across Yemen, with needs vastly exceeding available resources. In Hodeidah governorate, we started running Al-Qanawes mother and child hospital in December 2020, providing maternity services, including cesarean sections, inpatient neonatal care, and mental health support. In Abs General hospital in Hajjah, we continue to support the emergency room, the pediatric and neonate wards, the maternity unit offering over 1000 deliveries per month, and the inpatient therapeutic feeding center.
MSF has been running a mother and child Hospital in Taiz Houban since 2016, offering trauma stabilization care, maternity services for high-risk and complicated cases, pediatric and neonatal inpatient care, and inpatient therapeutic feeding. In Taiz city, to respond to the need for specialized reproductive health care services, we started to manage maternal and neonatal care in Al-Jomhouri hospital from June 2021, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. This refocus of activities meant that we ended our support to the city’s Yemeni Swedish children’s hospital and Al-Thawra hospital.
Yemen's Malnutrition crisis
In Abs, Hajjah governorate, our teams treated an alarming number of children suffering from malnutrition. Our inpatient therapeutic feeding center operated at more than 100 percent capacity throughout the year, and our teams treated many more children with severe malnutrition and medical complications than the year before.
Other MSF projects in the northern part of Yemen, such as in Ad-Dahi in Hodeidah, Haydan in Sa’ada and Khamir in Amran, also recorded slight increases in the numbers of malnourished children treated, although they were not as significant as in Abs.
Much of the malnutrition that we see in Yemen is caused by a lack of access to basic health care for children—if children become ill and cannot get the treatment they need, they are much more likely to become malnourished. Inflation is also making it increasingly difficult for Yemenis to feed their children and afford the cost of transporting them to hospital, which contributes both to malnutrition and the late treatment of illnesses.
Helping Yemen respond to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a severe impact on Yemen in 2021, with peaks of the disease in spring and autumn.
We managed treatment centers in Sana’a, Aden, and Ibb, where we ran some of the country’s only intensive care units. Death rates were high, and we know that many people in remote areas were unable to obtain treatment because it was not available locally and they could not afford to travel to the cities where we were working.
Rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 circulated freely, exacerbating fears of the disease and stigmatization of those infected with it. Moreover, the Ansar Allah authorities continued to refuse to address the spread of the virus publicly. Their refusal to use the vaccine, combined with other factors, such as issues with the supply of doses and the roll-out of vaccinations in government-controlled areas, as well as public distrust, meant that Yemen had one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the world in 2021.
More help is needed
MSF continues to call for a radical overhaul of the aid system in Yemen. Despite the large amounts of money spent on the humanitarian response, much of the international aid continues to be inefficient because it lacks both the flexibility to respond effectively to emergencies and the planning to ensure the provision of health care over the long term.
The authorities in Yemen also need to do much more to support and facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations. Limits on humanitarian action are too severe and are preventing the timely and independent provision of humanitarian aid where it is needed most.
How we're helping
Outpatient consultations for children under age 5
People admitted to hospital
Patients admitted for COVID-19
Children admitted to inpatient feeding programs
*Data from MSF International Activity Report 2021
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