A Tipping Point for Yemen’s Health System: The Impact of COVID-19 in a Fragile State


“COVID-19 shook countries with advanced health systems and services. What will it do to a country like Yemen that has lived in the shadow of war for five years?”

- Dr. Nahla Arishi, Yemeni pediatrician in Aden

In Yemen, where an already weak health system has been destroyed by five years of conflict and 80% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, COVID-19 is exacerbating what was already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

MedGlobal, alongside partners Project HOPE and the Center for Global Health at the University of Illinois, details the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on Yemen’s fragile health system in its new report: *A Tipping Point for Yemen’s Health System: The Impact of COVID-19 in a Fragile State. As of July 18, there have been 1,610 confirmed cases and 446 deaths from COVID-19 according to official reports. This amounts to around a 27% mortality rate of Yemenis who are confirmed to have COVID-19 - more than 5 times the global average and among the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world.

The COVID-19 outbreak is also disproportionately harming one of Yemen’s most critical human resources: health workers. This report documents 97 health workers - epidemiologists, medical directors, midwives, and other critical medical professionals - who have died in Yemen reportedly from COVID-19. In this uniquely dire context, when one medical professional dies, the effect is exponential and extends to their entire community.

This report explores how COVID-19 is exacerbating the already overwhelming health crisis in Yemen, particularly focusing on:

  • Insufficient testing capabilities across the country.

  • A lack of necessary infrastructure for COVID-19 prevention and management.

  • A lack of supplies particularly ventilators, oxygen generators, and oxygen cylinders.

  • The need for increased training for health personnel, particularly those staffing isolation units, in best practices and COVID-19 case management.

  • The high infection rate and deadly effects of COVID-19 on health staff.

  • Multi-year cuts to medical personnel salaries and incentives - most health staff have not received salaries for nearly two years.

  • The immense shortage in necessary funding for the humanitarian response.

  • The worsening economic crisis, which will likely increase the number of people in acute need.

Without a strong and comprehensive response to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and suppress its transmission, the numbers of COVID-19 deaths, including amongst doctors, is expected to rise rapidly in Yemen. The effects of the pandemic could be deadlier and longer-lasting than in most other countries, and the people of Yemen must not be forgotten.

Read the entire report here.