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Attacks on hospitals deprive vulnerable Yemenis of health care

11 Feb 2020

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Only 50 per cent of Yemen's health facilities are fully functional. Credit: OCHA/Muath Alagabal 

Yemen’s health sector has been hard hit by conflict. On 7 February, after two hospitals in Marib were badly damaged by clashes, Ms. Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen called it a “completely unacceptable breach of international humanitarian law.” 

The hospitals, Al Jafra and Al Saudi, which lie about 75 km north-west of Marib City, serve a population of about 15,000, mostly displaced people.

Only 50 per cent of health facilities in Yemen are fully functional since the beginning of the conflict in 2015.  Ms Grande said,  “It’s terrible that facilities upon which thousands of people depend to survive have been badly damaged.” She added, “Preventing further damage and helping to rebuild it are some of our highest priorities.”

Nearly 250,000 Yemeni people have died since 2015, including 100,000 people as a direct result of combat and 130,000 from hunger and disease.

Fighting has escalated in districts in Marib and neighbouring governorates in mid-January, scattering nearly 4,700 families across Marib, Sana’a and Al Jawf governorates. Many of the people fleeing frontline areas had already been displaced at least once before and have exhausted all their resources. 

Humanitarian organizations are moving swiftly to respond to the humanitarian needs of thousands of people displaced across the region in recent weeks. They are providing emergency food kits, hygiene supplies, shelter materials and other essential items, as well as providing drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, health, nutrition and protection services.

In the weeks before fighting escalated in Marib, hostilities had also flared along several front lines, particularly in Al Dhale’e, Hudaydah and Shabwah. Although those clashes have been mostly contained, OCHA continues to receive reports of mass-casualty incidents across the country.

Every day OCHA receives reports of civilians killed or injured when shells land on their homes, snipers fire on their communities, or landmines or other munitions explode. Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The UN and partners aim to assist 15.6 million people – half the country’s population – this year. 

In 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provided a generous grant of US$500 million for humanitarian action carried out by UN agencies. This funding has enabled UN agencies to scale up its work in averting famine, supporting protection, and treating cholera, among other life-saving activities. So far it has supported 4.6 million vulnerable people, and this number is set to rise.