Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the poorest country in the Middle East and imports about 90% of its food, leaving its people extremely vulnerable to conflict and blockades of its ports.
The country has struggled to maintain peace for years, but has been locked in a devastating conflict since 2015. Yemen’s war plunged the country into crisis: the economy collapsed, diseases spread, and a health system already ravaged by years of political unrest has nearly collapsed under the weight of unprecedented need.
Yemen’s civil war has led to the world’s worst and largest humanitarian crisis. With the war now in its sixth year, 80% of the total population needs urgent assistance and protection. Malnutrition, cholera, poverty, displacement, child marriage, and chronic unemployment are all widespread, and even the most basic needs like food and water are at emergency levels.
The spread of infectious disease
More than half of Yemen’s population does not have regular access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which aggravates the risk of cholera, malnutrition, and other life-threatening diseases.
Such poor sanitation conditions have led to the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, with more than 2.1 million cases reported since 2017 — over half of them in children. More than 3,700 people have died.
COVID-19 has compounded the already devastating situation. The U.N. has warned that deaths from the coronavirus could exceed wartime fatalities, while threats of cholera and malnutrition continue to put millions of lives at risk.
The spread of the virus is a worst-case scenario. Hospitals and health systems are already struggling under the weight of widespread need, and testing and protective equipment are extremely limited. The situation is as dire in the temporary capital city as it is anywhere else across the country: there are only 60 hospital beds and 18 ventilators available for COVID-19 patients in Aden, which has a population of roughly 800,000.
Yemen has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, with 2 million children and more than 1 million pregnant and lactating women requiring treatment for acute malnutrition. Malnutrition has a compounding effect on children — it has long-term impacts on growth and stunting and makes them more vulnerable to disease.
Hunger is a daily reality for millions of people across the country. It’s estimated that some 20 million people are food insecure — 70% of the population — and this number continues to rise as conflict continues with no end in sight.
A nearly collapsed health system
Conflict has destroyed health care facilities across Yemen. Nearly half of all facilities are closed down or only partially functioning, and those that are still open face severe shortages of medicines, equipment, and staff.
Most of the medical equipment and supplies in hospitals are insufficient and out-of-date, and there are only 10 health workers for every 10,000 people across the country. Many health workers have received irregular pay for over two years — and some have gone without any pay at all.
Yemen’s women and children are most vulnerable to the ongoing conflict and disproportionally affected by the near complete collapse of health services. Pregnant women often have no access to hospitals, forcing them to deliver at home with untrained professionals, leading to a high maternal mortality rate.
Bringing HOPE to Yemen
Our history in Yemen
In August 2019, HOPE formed the Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen alongside MedGlobal, Pure Hands, and United Mission for Relief and Development. Together, the Alliance is engaging local Yemeni organizations to deliver food, medicines, medical supplies, and critical medical services to the people who need it most.
In the longer term, the Alliance will focus on strengthening the primary health care system and reducing maternal mortality, rebuilding health infrastructure and empowering Yemeni health workers with the training and tools they need to save lives.
“We know that the continued and seemingly relentless fighting has left too many communities in urgent need of the basics – food, clean water, and medicine,” says Rabih Torbay, president and CEO of Project HOPE. “Women and children are disproportionally affected by the near complete collapse of health services. Our objective is to save lives and eventually rebuild the health care system. For far too many people, time is running out.”
Through the Alliance, HOPE is supporting partners who are providing food, medical supplies, medicines, and emergency medical services to hard-hit communities where malnutrition and disease are rampant.
In November 2019, the Alliance launched a medical mission, led by MedGlobal, to provide emergency health care and educational services to vulnerable populations in the governates of Hadhramout and Ma’rib. The volunteer medical team provided services including internal medicine and surgeries, and held daily lectures and workshops on the most critical medical topics. The Alliance also supplied multiple local health care facilities with vital medical equipment, surgical supplies, and essential medications.
Today, in response to COVID-19, HOPE is supporting MedGlobal in distributing PPE, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, and other critical medical equipment in Ade, Taiz, Hadhramout, Al-Hudaydah, and Ma’rib.
Note: Above photos are from a MedGlobal medical mission to Yemen in November 2019. Photos courtesy MedGlobal, photographer Marc Roussel, 2019.