Struggling to survive: Stories from Yemen’s collapsing health system

Originally published



Yemen's children are at the heart of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Ten million children are in urgent need of assistance, over two million are malnourished — and the number is rising. War, economic collapse and the failure of the international community to act have all contributed to this crisis.
Child mortality rates — already unacceptably high before conflict broke out — have increased. An additional 10,000 preventable deaths per year are now occurring. These children are the invisible causalities of Yemen's war. Another 1,219 children have died as a direct result of the fighting. The country's fragile health system is collapsing. A fiscal crisis and the country's failing economy have led to chronic shortages of essential drugs and equipment. Health workers and doctors have gone unpaid since August 2016.
Every ten minutes, one Yemeni child dies from preventable killers like diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infection. These figures will rise unless the international community acts decisively to fund humanitarian action that will require at least half a billion dollars to support often lifesaving Health and Nutrition activities in 2017.
The conflict has also been characterised by an almost complete disregard for the protection of civilians, and multiple violations of international law have been documented by the UN and human rights organisations. Hospitals and health facilities have been damaged and destroyed by airstrikes and ground fighting and the import and distribution of life-saving medical supplies delayed by bureaucratic impediments and restricted access for humanitarian organizations to reach people in need of aid.


Yemen is in the grip of the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world right now. 18.7 million people — including 10 million children — are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance or protections — that's more than one third of the entire population. Since conflict broke out in March 2015, children have paid the heaviest price for a brutal escalation in fighting which has brought the country to the brink of famine and the health system to its knees. 14.8 million people (55% of which are children) are currently deprived of access to even the most basic health care. For many, illnesses that should be easily treatable are now life threatening, often leading to death.