Doa’a Kutbi looks back on her three and a half years with International Medical Corps in the southern port...
Impoverished conditions and a bitter armed conflict now deep into its fourth year are pushing more than a quarter...
Yemen’s civil war, entering its fifth year with no immediate hope of peace in view, is driving residents of the Middle East’s poorest country deeper into misery.
Already struggling to control communicable disease and chronic malnutrition when the civil war broke out in March 2015, Yemen today is seen as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with children suffering the brunt. Two million children under 5 are acutely malnourished, living in near-famine conditions in the midst of a conflict estimated to have claimed 70,000 lives in the past three years. A United Nations report in early 2019 concluded: “Yemen now risks losing its youngest generation to a vicious cycle of violence, displacement, poverty and illiteracy.”
In December 2018, the warring factions agreed to an exchange of prisoners, a limited ceasefire and withdrawal of forces from the embattled port city of al-Hudaydah. Although limited in scope, the announcement of those steps raised hopes for achieving a broader peace. However, those hopes have dwindled with the lack of progress to implement these steps on the ground and the failure to resume talks in the new year as agreed. Without peace, humanitarian conditions in Yemen are expected to deteriorate further.
Through much of 2017, the country endured the world’s largest cholera outbreak in recent memory, with more than 1 million suspected cases reported before the disease was contained. Fighting in and around the country’s main port city of al-Hudaydah contributed to a general tightening of food, fuel and medical supplies, most of which are imported. At the same time, a sharp drop in the value of the Yemeni Rial pushed the cost of critical commodities that are available beyond the reach of many.
In this challenging environment, International Medical Corps serves areas of Yemen with some of the most pressing humanitarian needs, even though widespread damage to existing infrastructure has restricted access to many areas. More than half of Yemen’s health facilities no longer function, and with the government unable to support the country’s health system, only outside assistance prevents it from total collapse.
The Middle East’s poorest country before the war began, today Yemen ranks among the world’s worst humanitarian disasters, with some 23 million of its 29 million people in need of some kind of emergency assistance. More than 3 million have been displaced internally within the country. Health authorities have struggled for years to control chronic malnutrition in Yemen, but the ongoing civil war has caused food security conditions to worsen dramatically.Learn More
Food shortages in Yemen are growing worse
Nearly 20 million Yemenis lack access to basic healthcare
The toll of Yemen’s civil war is high, with unofficial estimates of 70,000 dead since early 2016, although authorities stopped publishing updated casualty figures
With fewer than half of the country’s healthcare facilities still operating after years of war, International Medical Corps is supporting hospitals and clinics in five governorates across Yemen: Sana’a, Ibb, Taizz, Aden and Lahj. To do this, we support government-run primary healthcare centers still operating, and provide mobile medical units and additional static services. The strategy seeks to rebuild local confidence in community-level government services, rather than create an unsustainable parallel system. A major part of our support includes supplying medicines, pharmaceutical and other equipment, as well as nutrition commodities. We are also training local health workers to expand their skills and knowledge. Our mobile teams in all supported governorates serve especially-vulnerable communities and internally displaced groups who have limited or no access to government health facilities.
International Medical Corps works closely with local community health volunteers to raise awareness of how to access essential lifesaving healthcare services. By training local staff—particularly about topics such as first aid, infection control and other basic services—we re building the long-term capacity of community-based health workers to respond themselves to Yemen’s growing malnutrition crisis and emergency health needs.
In response to Yemen’s hunger crisis, we provide treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) cases at more than 40 community-level health facilities, and through mobile clinics operating in Sana’a, Taizz, Lahj and Aden governorates. We offer training, essential drugs and nutrition commodities needed to operate outpatient therapeutic programs. In a country that has long struggled with food shortages and chronic malnutrition, the effects of civil war and a blockade of major ports has exacerbated conditions to a point where nearly one-quarter of Yemen’s 29 million people face the threat of famine.
On average, International Medical Corps reaches more than 13,000 people per month with health and nutrition education, 80% of them female. In Taizz, we are implementing emergency livelihoods and livelihoods-restoration programs to rebuild livestock herds lost by vulnerable households during the conflict.
Each month, International Medical Corps treats nearly 3,800 children under 5 years old in our outpatient and inpatient nutrition programs, as well as 1,400 pregnant or nursing women in our supplementary feeding programs. In addition, we provide monthly vouchers for an average of nearly 2,000 food-insecure households with acutely malnourished children, as part of our food assistance programs designed to improve household food consumption and dietary diversity.
An estimated 17 million people in Yemen are currently in need of safe drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene. For more than 8 million of those, the need is acute. International Medical Corps’ WASH interventions target mainly beneficiaries of community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) programming, including children and their caretakers. These individuals are among the most vulnerable members of a community where the risk of communicable and WASH-related diseases is significantly heightened because of diminished access to water and/or lack of household and personal hygiene items.
International Medical Corps also provides emergency water trucking to selected hospitals and health facilities, easing the lack of water supply at the secondary-care level. Water shortages can directly affect a hospital’s ability to perform emergency and lifesaving services, including surgeries, obstetric care and infection-control measures.
A central component of International Medical Corps’ programming in Yemen is regular training on health, nutrition and WASH issues, to ensure quality services in line with recognized standards and protocols. Training includes infectious-disease prevention (dealing most recently with Dengue fever and cholera); emergency obstetric and newborn care; maternal and child health; immunization; and reproductive health.
During the current emergency, International Medical Corps is also providing training in first aid, resuscitation of trauma patients, and the safe transport and referral of patients to facilities offering secondary-level healthcare. International Medical Corps also provides training for clinical and non-clinical staff, community health volunteers, and government and non-government workers.
Our livestock-restoration work includes training that helps families rebuild productive herds of sheep or goats lost as a result of conflict and displacement.