March 28 – Health situation in Yemen

News and Press Release
Originally published

March 28 – Health situation in Yemen

  • Almost 18.8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid and 14.8 million people have no access to health care services. This includes more than 2 million people who have been internally displaced.
  • Fighting continues in parts of Taiz, Marib, Al-Jawf Hajjah and Sana'a governorates, impeding delivery of health services and transportation of life-saving medicines and medical supplies.
  • Almost 14.5 million people lack access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services, increasing the risk of infectious diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea, malaria and scabies.
  • Sana'a International Airport is still closed, depriving thousands of Yemenis from departing from or arriving in Sana'a. This includes some patients with cancer and other chronic diseases.
  • From 19 March 2015 to 28 February 2017, a total of 7719 conflict-related deaths and 42 922 injuries were reported from health facilities in conflict-affected governorates. The number of deaths is believed to be higher given that this figure only captures data reported by health facilities.

Health concerns

  • Despite huge support from WHO and health partners, there are still serious shortages of medicines and medical supplies, especially in the most affected governorates. Providing surgical care to the injured is challenging due to critical shortages of specialized health staff amid a financial crisis and lack of operational budget in the Ministry of Health.
  • Medicines for diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other chronic diseases are in short supply and there are acute shortages in critical medical supplies – trauma kits, medicines, blood bags and other necessities.
  • Surges in cases of malaria and suspected dengue fever have been reported. In 2016, more than 28 000 suspected cases of dengue fever and over 218 000 suspected malaria cases were reported in Yemen.
  • Malnutrition rates are increasing, with almost 462 000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and at risk of life-threatening complications.
  • Currently, more than half of all health facilities in Yemen are closed or partially functioning. At least 274 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict, 13 health workers have been killed and 31 injured.
  • There have been growing concerns over the possible closure of the National Oncology Centre in Hudayda due to lack of resources and medical supplies, jeopardizing the lives of thousands of cancer patients in Hudaydah and neighbouring governorates.
  • As summer season is approaching, public hospitals and health facilities in coastal areas such as Hudaydah governorate are warning about the impact of the disruption of electricity, especially in crucial areas such as  intensive care unit  (ICUs) and operating rooms.
  • For more than 6 months, Health facilities in Yemen have received no financial support to cover operational costs and staff salaries.
  • Between October 2016 and 12 March 2017, a cumulative of 23 506 suspected cholera cases with 108 deaths were reported by the Ministry of Health. The cumulative suspected cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD/cholera) have decreased in 148 districts out of 165.

Health priorities

  • To prevent and control communicable diseases (including immunization, disease surveillance and outbreak response) and to ensure access to priority health services.
  • To enhance the referral system for surgical and medical emergencies, with priority for trauma patients and obstetric emergencies and to sustain essential supply pipelines.

WHO response

  • Since March 2015, WHO has reached millions of people with more than 1200 tonnes of life-saving medicines and supplies that have been distributed in all affected governorates.
  • To ensure the functionality of emergency departments in public hospitals and health facilities, WHO has provided more than 3.7 million litres of fuel since the beginning of the conflict. More than 40 million litres of safe water have been provided to health facilities and camps hosting internally displaced persons to reduce the risk of water-borne diseases.
  • The national integrated surveillance system and disease early warning system has been set up to ensure the speed and efficiency of data collection, analysis and public health response to outbreaks. The number of sentinel sites witnessed an increase from 400 reporting sites in 2015 to 1982 sites by the end of December 2016.
  • Since the beginning of the conflict, more than 4.7 million children under the age of five have been vaccinated against polio in four national polio campaigns conducted by WHO, health authorities, and partners. In addition, almost four million children aged from 9 months to 15 have been vaccinated against measles in two mop-up campaign in 126 districts. More than 815 000 children under the age of 1 have received 3 doses of pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B), and almost 400 000 women of childbearing age have been vaccinated against neonatal tetanus.
  • WHO has distributed essential medicines needed for chronic diseases, including insulin and metformin for patients with diabetes. WHO also distributed medicines used for kidney transplantation, cardiac diseases and hypertension.
  • WHO is working to strengthen and build the number of trained health workers  in the field of mental health, as well as ensuring the integration of mental health into the health care system. Currently, Yemen has only 40 psychiatry specialists, the majority of whom are based in Sana’a, the capital.
  • WHO has deployed 14 mobile primary health care teams in Al-Hudaydah, Sa’ada, Hajjah and Amran, 16 facility-based primary health care teams in Abyan, Aden, Socotra, Hajjah, Sa’ada and Sana’a governorates, as well as 12 surgical teams in Abyan, Shabwah, Hajjah, Al-Mahweet, Sa’ada, Marib, Amran and Sana’a governorates.
  • As the number of malnourished children increases across the country, WHO has established 15 therapeutic feeding centres in seven governorates, working together with the MOPHP and health partners.
  • WHO has supported the rehabilitation and maintenance of 26 Diarrhoea Treatment Centres in Sana’a city, Aden, Abyan, Rayma, Taiz, Al-Hudaydah, Ibb, Hajjah, Albaydhah Dhamar, and Sana’a governorates.


  • For this year the Health Cluster in Yemen is appealing for US$ 322 million, of which WHO is requesting US$ 126 million in order to scale-up the response to the increasing needs.