© Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF


Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of an increasingly brutal conflict

Yemen is in the midst of a civil war.

Since March 2015, a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has been fighting anti-government Ansar Allah forces, resulting in widespread destruction, bombing and gun battles.

Click the map to expandRecent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and diphtheria, as well as the arrival of COVID-19, have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.

More than three million people have been displaced since the war started in 2015.

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With an estimated 20 million in need of humanitarian assistance, our activities in Yemen are among our most extensive worldwide.

We work in 12 hospitals and health centres across the country and provide support to more than 20 hospitals or health facilities across 11 governorates.

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COVID-19 in Yemen

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is now circulating widely across the whole of Yemen. It’s most evident in our intensive care unit in Sana’a, which has 15 beds and has been full most of the time in June, and where the team have witnessed a high rate of deaths.

MSF is extremely concerned about how COVID-19 might affect those living in precarious situations, including people living amid the conflict in Yemen. 

Yemeni hospitals are struggling to meet the existing needs of people and the spread of COVID-19 would place enormous strain on an already broken system.

After the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Yemen on 10 April, MSF called for the authorities there to urgently allow the entrance of supplies and humanitarian staff into the country to prepare a response to the disease. 

While the various authorities in Yemen have taken some steps to plan a response to COVID-19, an effective response to the disease is almost impossible with the existing resources in the country. 

Cholera in Yemen

Between January and March 2019, we have admitted 7,938 suspected cholera cases to our health facilities in Amran, Hajjah, Ibb and Taiz governorates.

From 1 January to 26 March, the number of cholera patients treated by MSF increased from 140 to 2,000 per week. Diagnostic tests carried out over the same period showed that the percentage of cholera-positive cases increased from 58 to 70 percent.

We have scaled up our response: teams have opened a 50-bed cholera treatment centre in Khamer. We have also increased the bed capacity of the cholera treatment unit in Taiz.

We have bolstered centres in Ibb and Kilo and opened a cholera treatment centre in Al Kuwait hospital in Sana’a.

Between 2016 and 2017, two waves of cholera hit Yemen. Although the disease was subsequently brought under control, health authorities and medical organisations have continued to see cholera cases in almost all regions of the country since the end of the last outbreak. 

Yemen conflict timeline

Yemen: Key information

Collapsed health system

Warring parties have destroyed much of the country's public infrastructure, including health facilities. Following the imposition of a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition in 2015, import restrictions coupled with high inflation have crippled Yemenis' access to healthcare and other essential services.

Furthermore, many of the country's 50,000 health workers have not been paid since August 2016 and have consequently left the public health system, forced to look for other sources of income.

War and Violence 

Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015 and until the end of 2017, MSF treated more than 72,000 patients wounded by violence in our medical facilities and MSF-supported clinics.

According to the Yemen Data Project, more than 16,000 air raids have been recorded in the last three years - roughly 15 a day.

MSF physiotherapist Elizabeth Braga conducts a physiotherapy session mid-surgery on a child with burns to 30 percent of his body. The physiotherapy session reduces the pain felt by the patient post-surgery.
Neglected health needs

Even where medical facilities are operational, most people are no longer able to afford the transport costs to go to them.

This means they are unable to seek timely care, and easily curable health conditions are turning deadly when left untreated. Women often give birth at home and seek care only when complications occur. Malnutrition among children also remains high.

Cholera and diphtheria

We opened 37 cholera treatment centres and oral rehydration points and admitted 101,475 patients in response to a cholera outbreak in 2017.

Because of the war it is even harder for people to access clean water, dispose of waste and get medical care. As the cholera epidemic subsided, we began to see cases of diphtheria, a disease eradicated from most countries thanks to systematic childhood vaccinations. The last case in Yemen had been recorded in 1992.

This is the second time within a few weeks Reda has brought her son Muhatasein to the MSF cholera treatment centre in Qaeda hospital, Ibb Governorate. September 2017.
Surgical interventions

MSF teams performed 19,728 surgical interventions in Yemen during 2017. We saw an increase in the number of patients admitted to the emergency surgical hospital we run in Aden, not only from the frontlines, but also due to an upsurge in violence within the city.

Renal failure treatment  

Since 2015, four of Yemen's 32 kidney treatment centres have been forced to close. The 28 remaining centres are running out of essential supplies, so treatment is often interrupted.

We support six dialysis treatment centres and over the past two years have imported more than 800 tons of dialysis supplies and provided over 83,000 dialysis sessions for some 800 patients. More than 4,400 renal failure patients remain in urgent need of care.

A man undergoes dialysis in Al-Jumhori hospital in Sana’a. May 2016.

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