The healthcare crisis in Yemen was introduced in 2014, as rebel forces banded together following a long period of political unrest, corruption, unemployment and food insecurity. In its wake, the conflict has left a growing number of casualties and healthcare facilities unequipped to deal with the rising tides of people in need of medical attention. According to statistics released by the United Nations, over 6,800 people have been killed and 35,000 injured since the start of the Saudi-fronted coalition air strikes against the Houthi rebels in March 2015.
As the war in Yemen surpasses its first year and a half of violence, the healthcare has become more vital and more precarious. As of March 2016, 600 healthcare facilities were deemed nonfunctional because of conflict-related damages. These damages ranged from bombed buildings to a shortage of staff and supplies. Over 80 percent of the population, roughly 21 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance, many of which need medical attention. Meanwhile, Yemen’s healthcare is on the brink of collapse. Many patients need to be treated for bullet wounds, broken bones, blunt force trauma and various vascular injuries. Oftentimes, the issues medical professionals face is not singular in an individual. They could be up against multiple life-threatening injuries, all on the same body, all at once.
Consequences of the healthcare crisis in Yemen are far larger than the immediate wartime implications. With such a lack of resources and a climate of fear surrounding medical buildings, even basic medical needs are not being met. According to Pranav Shetty, a health coordinator with the International Medical Corps, “There are thousands of children going unvaccinated, terminally ill patients not being able to receive regular treatments, and pregnant women missing out on crucial check-ups.” This year alone, 10 thousand children are predicted to die of preventable diseases.
This is in part due to the violence faced by medical personnel at the hands of the Houthi rebels. The rebels attack hospitals, ambulance and medical staff directly, which often robs medical professionals of the opportunity to do their work or scares them out of coming to work entirely. Since the beginning of the crisis, 20 percent of all hospitals in Yemen have been rendered useless. Yemen was ill-equipped to deal with this dilemma in the first place. It is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, with many of its citizens living below the global poverty line. Thus, in many respects, the healthcare crisis in Yemen is only just beginning. The health ministry is unable to purchase new supplies.
An unheard of amount of people are going unvaccinated for preventable diseases. The impact on mental health, specifically PTSD in the wake of the crisis, has yet to be measured but conjectures can be made that the outcome will not be good.
To meet the increasing need for medical staffers, hospitals have begun training local volunteers and medical students in basic emergency responses in exchange for small stipends. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have begun stepping in and offering medical aid, particularly for malnourished children in the region. This is a step in the right direction, but more can be done. It will take aid from countries around the world and selfless individual effort to help alleviate the burden of the healthcare crisis in Yemen, and as a global team we are capable of making a change.
– Kayla Provencher