Yemen Update

Health system collapses – more than 10 million Yemenis in acute need


Beside the casualties of the conflict in Yemen, thousands more are dying in silence and obscurity from malnutrition and easily treatable illnesses. The situation was highlighted in February when the World Health Organisation issued a dire warning about the desperate plight of the people of Yemen. Simultaneously the United Nations launched an international appeal to raise more than US$2 billion to provide lifesaving assistance to the population. Middle East Health reports.

Yemen does not feature on many people’s radar, but it should as the country is fast headed towards a human tragedy of catastrophic proportions. Yemen’s healthcare system is in the process of collapse. Already thousands of people are dying from easily preventable illnesses because there is no medication available. Many more are dying from malnutrition. If a UN appeal for donor funds for humanitarian assistance is not successful – the situation for more than 10 million Yemenis in acute need looks extremely bleak indeed.

“The health system in Yemen is extremely challenged and highly dependent on international support,” the WHO said in February. “Currently more than 14.8 million people lack access to basic health care. Less than 45% of health facilities are still functioning – 17% are completely non-functional. At least 274 of those facilities have been damaged or destroyed during the current conflict.”

WHO said that healthcare workers have not received their salaries regularly for about 6 months. Medical supplies are in chronic shortage despite extensive support from WHO and Health Cluster members, further complicating the delivery of life-saving health care.

Beyond the direct casualties of the armed conflict, many Yemeni people die in silence and are largely unaccounted for, unnoticed and unrecorded. Girls, boys, women and men are dying of malnutrition and diseases that could be easily preventable and treatable. People with chronic diseases, including high blood pressure,diabetes, kidney conditions etc. are slowly dying as they lack access to life-sustaining treatments.

Humanitarian partners are increasingly being asked to fill gaps created by the collapsing health institutions, including helping with payment of salaries of health professionals and the procurement of medicines and medical supplies.

“It is therefore essential for all stakeholders to help stem this collapse, including through selective reengagement and prioritization of interventions anddistricts to be supported, the WHO said.

Speaking at a donor conference in Geneva on 9 February 2017, Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said: “In Yemen, if bombs don’t kill you, a slow and painful death by starvation is now an increasing threat.”

He warned: “Yemen’s downward spiral means that we will see more shocking scenes of despair, with famine possibly spreading across the country, unless the conflict is ended and the deep economic crisis and aid shortage is reversed.”

The NRC pointed out that a total of 462,000 children are at immediate risk of death from severe malnutrition. Among the 2.2 million displaced Yemenis, 75% identified food as their top priority. Displaced people face a number of hardships, including lack of access to water, healthcare, shelter, education and a basic income. Still, 75% identify food as their top priority among all these, illustrating the immediate and desperate need, a daily struggle for survival.

“Since the conflict started, all the warring parties have impeded our ability to reach people who were in most need of humanitarian assistance,” Egeland said. “It is crucial that all restrictions on aid are lifted so that we are able to deliver lifesaving services throughout Yemen. All parties to the conflict in Yemen should allow free and clear access to humanitarian agencies, as is required under International Humanitarian Law.”

The NRC noted that a de-facto blockade on imports has had a devastating impact on the Yemeni economy. Public sector health workers and teachers do not get their salaries. The private sector is collapsing in a country dependent on imports for 90 per cent of its food. The blockade, the violence and restrictions to humanitarian access on the ground, as well as the continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in violation of humanitarian law, is turning Yemen into a country where an entire population soon will be dependent on assistance.

“Over the last years we have shown that we can respond rapidly to needs on the ground, but unless the financial commitments match the response, we will not be able to reach the most vulnerable,” Egeland said. “Last year’s appeal was only 58% funded, limiting our overallresponse substantially. We appeal today to international donors to step up the funding, but also to apply all the pressure possible on the involved parties to secure peace and a revival of Yemen’s economy.”

During 2016, WHO and their Health Cluster partners targeted 10.6 million people with life-saving health services in Yemen and were able to sustain the functionality of more than 414 healthcare facilities. Together, they operated 406 health and nutrition mobile teams in 266 districts, conducted 541 child health and nutrition interventions in 323 districts, and vaccinated 4.5 million children against polio.

“We thank all Member States that supported the Health Cluster and WHO’s emergency operations in Yemen in 2016 and we encourage you to continue and scale-up your support for this year in order to respond to the increasing needs. The Health Cluster in Yemen is appealing for US$322 million, of which WHO is requesting $126 million.”


UN appeals to international donors for desperately needed assistance

On 8 February, the United Nations and humanitarian partners launched an international appeal for $2.1 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen in 2017 – the largest-ever humanitarian response plan for the war-torn country.

“Two years of war have devastated Yemen… Without international support, they may face the threat of famine in the course of 2017 and I urge donors to sustain and increase their support to our collective response,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien on the launch of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen in Geneva.

“Humanitarian partners are ready to respond. But they need timely, unimpeded access, and adequate resources, to meet the humanitarian needs wherever they arise,” said O’Brien, who is also the Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

He noted that since March 2015, violent conflict and disregard by all parties to the conflict for their responsibility to protect civilians have created a vast protection crisis in Yemen and millions of people face threats to their safety and basic human rights every day. In addition, deliberate war tactics are accelerating the collapse of key institutions and the economy, thereby exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities.

This has left an alarming 18.8 million people – more than two thirds of the population – in need of humanitarianassistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which also estimates that 10.3 million people are acutely affected and nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished.

“We remain committed to the principle that our plans must be grounded both in evidence and actual capacity, and I ask donors today to help Yemen in its moment of great need,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick. In 2016, 120 national and international partners including UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working out of humanitarian hubs in Aden, Al Hudaydah, Ibb, Sana’a, and Sa’ada assisted more than 5.6 million people with direct humanitarian aid.

Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen



Date of upload: 18th Mar 2017

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