ALERT – 5 Years of Conflict, Yemen Vulnerable to Health Crisis | March 26, 2020
Yemen has endured 5 years of devastating conflict leaving the country highly vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19 among other risks. Less than 50% of health facilities are functioning in Yemen while 19.7 million people are in need of healthcare. Damage to existing health facilities as well as the lack of salary payments for health […]
Yemen has endured 5 years of devastating conflict leaving the country highly vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19 among other risks. Less than 50% of health facilities are functioning in Yemen while 19.7 million people are in need of healthcare.
Damage to existing health facilities as well as the lack of salary payments for health staff and restrictions in the import and transport of medical supplies have been accelerating the decline of health services throughout the conflict. At last count, there were only 10 health workers per 10,000 people in Yemen.
5 years of war have devastated Yemen
There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases yet in Yemen but after 5 years of war, an outbreak of COVID-19 would be devastating. Currently, 80% of the population needs humanitarian aid to survive. As many as 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, meaning two-thirds of the people do not have the option of clean water to help them stay safe from diseases.
Economic blockages and long-running disruptions to the economy have driven the prices of food and fuel up, both critical to keeping Yemen’s population healthy. More than 3.3 million people are displaced and many lack access to adequate water, sanitation, and health services necessary to survive. The destruction of infrastructure including medical facilities, water systems, roads, and systems necessary for food security severely undermines Yemen’s ability to cope with another crisis.
“Yemen has endured 5 years of conflict. Now we are concerned that Yemen’s health facilities have the support they need to endure a further crisis in case COVID19 reaches Yemen,” said Thibaut Martin, Acting Head of Mission for HI in Yemen. “Health systems in Yemen are already stretched to their limits. With the further risk of COVID-19, health facilities may not be able to cope. Yemen cannot face the threat of COVID-19 alone. Support to health services and the continuation of humanitarian programs are critical in this moment.”
Urgent Issues for Yemen
- More than ever, support to Yemen’s health services and programs needs to include those most at risk of exclusion such as persons with disabilities. All plans for preparedness and response for COVID-19 must be inclusive of groups most at risk of exclusion, among which persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. HI calls on all actors to ensure that the response to COVID-19 be inclusive of all by reducing the barriers of access to services and addressing the specific needs of those most vulnerable.
- Health facilities can’t run without supplies, staff, resources, and the safety to operate. Barriers to humanitarian programming and access to Yemen’s population could mean life and death in a spiralling health crisis. HI calls on all concerned parties to lift any obstruction and facilitate timely and safe access to humanitarian assistance and protection to affected populations particularly at this critical moment when Yemen’s health system may face a critical battle.
- Bombing does more than kill civilians. The destruction of critical infrastructure including health, water, and transport systems is driven by the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects with unjustifiable consequences on the health and safety of Yemen’s civilians. HI calls on all States to support the development of a strong political declaration to end the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and to ensure support to the victims of these weapons.
HI’s Support to Yemen’s Health Systems
HI is present in the governorates of Sana’a, Amanat al Asimah and Aden, in 6 health centres, and welcomes patients from all over the country. HI has treated 25,000 people, many of them victims of the conflict, since the beginning of its operations in 2015.
HI provides specialized care that Yemen’s health systems cannot. The association has provided more than 27,000 crutches, walkers, wheelchairs etc. Nearly 23,000 people have received psychological support. HI fitted 300 people with prostheses and orthotics through its collaboration with the Sana’a Physiotherapy and Prosthesis Centre. More than 700 Yemeni health workers in Sana’a and other governorates were sensitized and trained in early trauma response.
HI has contributed to set up emergency rehabilitation in Yemen to meet the specific needs of the victims with complex injuries (open wounds, fractures, burns, loss of muscle mass, damaged nervous systems, etc.). Rehabilitation cannot wait. Without rehabilitation immediately following surgery, patients risk the loss of mobility, resulting in impairments that often go hand in hand with social and professional marginalization, a reduction in income and the impoverishment of the patient’s family.
Read more about contamination by explosive weapons in Yemen
Read more about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen