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Yemen on the Brink of Famine

Yemen’s civil war, now in its fourth year, is driving residents of the Middle East’s poorest country deeper into misery. 

Already struggling to control communicable disease and chronic malnutrition when the conflict broke out in March, 2015, Yemen today has arguably become the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 10% of its 29 million people displaced, a quarter of the population living on the brink of famine and an estimated 3.3 million children and nursing mothers acutely malnourished.

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 it was contained. Fighting in and around the country’s main port city of al-Hudaydah has worsened existing shortages of food, fuel and medicines—most of which are imported—while a sharp drop in the value of the Yemeni Rial has 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 it, the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse. With no sign of an end to the violence, humanitarian conditions in Yemen are expected only to deteriorate further.


29.3 million

internally displaced

2.3 million million


18.8 million

Conflict, Hunger and Disease in Yemen

The Middle East’s poorest country before the war began, today it ranks as one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters, with over 22 million of the country’s 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.

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The Challenges

Food Insecurity

Food shortages in Yemen are growing worse

Lack of Health Care

Nearly 16 million Yemenis lack access to basic health care

Internal Conflict

The toll of Yemen’s civil war is high. In 2017, when the number of dead reached 10,000 and those wounded was listed at more than 50,000, authorities stopped publishing updated casualty figures

Our Response

Health Care

With fewer than half the country’s health care facilities still operating after more than two 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 health care centers still operating and also 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 supplies of 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.

In April 2017, International Medical Corps supported 77 health facilities and 14 mobile health clinics. We work closely with local community health volunteers to increase their capacity to raise awareness how to access essential lifesaving health care services. Through local staff training, particularly around topics such as first aid, infection control and other basic services, our goal is to build the long-term capacity of community-based health workers to respond themselves to Yemen’s growing malnutrition crisis and emergency health needs that accompany the present conflict.

Nutrition and Food Security

In response to Yemen’s hunger crisis, we provide treatment for Severe and Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate and Acute Malnutrition (MAM) cases at more than 40 community-level health facilities and with mobile clinics 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 a quarter of Yemen’s 29 million people face the threat of famine.

On average, International Medical Corps reaches over 13,000 individuals 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.

International Medical Corps also treats nearly 3,800 children under 5 years-old in our outpatient and inpatient nutrition programs each month, as well as 1,400 pregnant or nursing women per month in our supplementary feeding programs. In addition, we provide an average of nearly 2,000 food-insecure households with acutely malnourished children monthly vouchers as part of our food assistance programs designed to improve household food consumption and dietary diversity.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

An estimated 14.4 million people in Yemen are currently in need of safe drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene. For 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 who have been discharged from a CMAM program after receiving hygiene education, hygiene kits and water filters. These individuals are—by definition—among the most vulnerable members of a community whose risk of communicable and WASH-related diseases is significantly heightened because of their 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. This helps address the lack of adequate water supply. Water shortages can directly impact a hospitals’ ability to perform emergency and lifesaving services, including surgeries, obstetric care, and infection control measures.

Capacity Strengthening

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, (most recently 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, their safe transport and referral 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 to help families rebuild productive herds of sheep or goats lost as a result of conflict and displacement.

A First Responder's Blog from Inside the Crisis

As Yemen’s civil war moves through its fourth year with no end in sight, wide spread devastation has forced millions from their home, and the worsening nutrition situation is threatening more lives than ever before. Mothers and young children are among those most seriously affected. Doa’a Kutbi, a health program officer who works from International Medical Corps’ office in Aden, has been caught up in the conflict from the beginning.




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