Drought & Hunger in Yemen


International Medical Corps' Teams Are Providing Critical Support to the People of Yemen

International Medical Corps is responding to help control a cholera outbreak in Yemen that, in the period between late April and the end of May, has caused more than 55,000 suspected cases.

More than one third of all cases are children. According to the UN, the number of reported cases in the country doubled during May and that number is expected to triple to about 150,000 over the next six months. The outbreak has now spread to 18 of the country’s 22 govern orates.

Yemen’s civil war, now in its third year, has brought a steady deterioration of humanitarian conditions, leaving more than 3 million displaced. A quarter of the country’s 27 million population live on the brink of starvation, while an estimated 3.3 million children and nursing mothers are acutely malnourished. This number includes nearly one-half million children under 5 years of age.

International Medical Corps serves areas of Yemen with some of the most pressing humanitarian needs. Deteriorating conditions present major challenges to bring sufficient aid supplies into the country because of the conflict and a blockade of major ports. Once aid arrives in the country, the precarious security conditions hampers its distribution. Widespread, severe damage to infrastructure has restricted access to many areas, including to southern parts of the country. Over half of Yemen’s health facilities are no longer functional, and with the government no longer able to support the health system, it is on the verge of collapse. With no sign of an end to the violence, humanitarian conditions are expected to deteriorate further as 2017 progresses.

With fewer than half the country’s health care facilities still operating, 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 while also providing 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.

Read latest updates and accounts from our First Responders in Yemen below.


  • In 2013, the United Nations declared Yemen a Level 3 Emergency, the highest possible classification
  • 18.8 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance
  • An estimated 3.1 million Yemenis are now displaced internally, while another 180,000 have fled the country since March 2015
  • Nearly 15 million Yemenis require health care assistance and nearly 25% of Yemen’s 27 million people face the threat of famine.
  • On average, International Medical Corps reaches over 13,000 people per month with health and nutrition education, 80% of whom are female.


Responding to Yemen’s Cholera Outbreak

International Medical Corps remains one of the leading International NGOs responding to control a rapidly expanding cholera outbreak in Yemen. In the brief period between late May and mid-June—a matter of just over two weeks--the number of suspected cases more than doubled from 55,000 to more than 130,000. Deaths reported since the outbreak began gather pace in late April totaled 676 as of June 8th.

More than one third of all cases are children.

The governorate of Sana’a, which includes Yemen’s capital of the same name, has been the hardest hit area, with 16,000 cases reported during the month of May. The number of newly reported cases reported there hit 2,777 during the first week in June, a figure roughly 10% higher than the week previously.

The United Nations, working with international health care NGOs, have established a total of 99 cholera treatment centers that are spread across 19 of Yemen’s 22 governorates.

International Medical Corps is operating 62 of these centers, located in Sana’a, the southern port city of Aden as well as in the governorates of Ibb, Taizz and Aden. However much more needs to be done. The World Health Organization estimates that five times the number of treatment centers and a ten-fold rise in the number of oral hydration points are required to bring the outbreak under control.

With many of the local support systems that would normally be capable of preventing or containing such an outbreak destroyed during more than two years of civil war in the country, there are few defenses to halt cholera’s spread.

International Medical Corps teams are providing consultations and treatment for those suspected or and confirmed to have cholera. We are also training community health volunteers how to treat the disease and also conduct cleaning campaigns to get rid of the cholera bacteria and generate greater awareness of the disease.

Cholera is transmitted by bacteria that live in contaminated food and water, causing severe watery diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration and death with alarming speed if not treated. Poor sanitation conditions have contributed to the current outbreak, with cases first being reported near the end of April in several governorates. About 7.6 million Yemenis—roughly a quarter of the country’s population—live in areas at high risk of cholera transmission.

International Medical Corps has already trained 280 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) on cholera emergency response techniques and recently conducted refresher training for response, awareness and referral of suspected cases to Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) have been mobilized. In Aden, International Medical Corps has ongoing programs involving hygiene promotion and water, sanitation and hygiene activities. As part of the response, International Medical Corps plans to disinfect wells in locations not covered by potable water distribution.

Two years after the escalation of the conflict in 2015, the humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate as the country endures the destruction of a civil war now in its third year, collapsing institutions and a looming famine.

According to the United Nations, a total of 18.8 million people are in need of urgent lifesaving assistance. Currently, 4.5 million people require assistance in the treatment and prevention of malnutrition, including 3.3 children suffering from acute malnutrition. The current cholera outbreak only adds further to the country’s burden of misery.

In addition, health systems in Yemen have declined, and the Ministry of Health struggles to cover operational costs for health services. The available services are not sufficient to provide increasing needs and treatments for malnutrition, and feeding centers are under-resourced. Cholera, diarrhea, measles, malaria and other diseases are present, and treatment is often unavailable and hard to access due to widespread damage to infrastructure and insufficient medical supplies coming into the country.

International Medical Corps is one of the few humanitarian organizations still functioning inside Yemen.

International Medical Corps in Yemen currently operates through three offices in Sana’a, Aden and Ibb (for Taizz); and currently employs 192 staff including 16 expatriate staff. 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.

Our Nutrition and Food Security Response
In response to this emergency, 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 27 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.

Our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Response
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.

Our Capacity Strengthening Response
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.