Health services decline as conflict in Yemen continues

Sana'a, 28 September 2016— Yemen's 18-month conflict has led to depletion of health services, with more than 1900 out of 3507 health facilities in 16 governorates currently either not functioning or partially functioning, closing access to much needed essential health services to thousands of Yemeni people. The preliminary results of the WHO-supported Health Resources Availability Mapping System (HeRAMS) show the scale of damage to health facilities. Physical damage was endured in 274 health facilities (69 health facilities are totally damaged and 205 are partially damaged). The preliminary results of the 2016 HeRAMS show that only 45% of surveyed health facilities were fully functional and 17% have stopped functioning.

The HeRAMS results reveal a dramatic gap in health services’ availability. General services and trauma management services are available only in one third of the health facilities. Child health and nutrition services are available in approximately 4 out of 10 facilities. It was found that communicable diseases management was the most available category of health services (available in 55% of the surveyed facilities), while maternal and newborn health interventions were offered in 35% of the surveyed health facilities. Notably, noncommunicable and mental health services were the least available (in 18% of the health facilities).

HeRAMS also confirmed existing critical shortages in the health workforce. More than 33 000 health staff are working in 16 governorates with wide variations in the distribution among the governorates. 70% of 16 surveyed governorates report the level of staffing below the WHO benchmark of 22 health workers for every 10 000 population. Moreover, 49 of 267 surveyed districts (out of total 334 districts) lack doctors. The ongoing conflict has affected almost all Yemen’s 22 governorates, hospital care being the hardest hit – only 37% of hospitals remain fully functional in the surveyed governorates, most public hospitals reduce services or close selected departments, often starting with operation theaters and intensive care units. As of 31 August 2016, more than 6780 people have been killed and over 33 800 injured, according to health facility-based data.

"The ongoing war in Yemen has created catastrophic effects on health system which was already struggling before the current crisis. Many patients and injured people suffer the dire consequences of this war," said Dr Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative for Yemen. “WHO and health partners continue their support to cope with the pressing health needs."

Health authorities and international community in Yemen are re-defining health strategies to extend services to those most in need and the results of HeRAMS provide insights for this exercise.