Crisis in Yemen

After more than three years of conflict, Yemen is a full-blown humanitarian emergency. The situation has progressively deteriorated since the war broke out, and airstrikes and ground fighting are having huge consequences for the civilians. All armed actors involved in the conflict, including the Saudi-led Coalition and the Houthis, are carrying out indiscriminate attacks without any respect for civilians or civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools or markets.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) health facilities alone have been hit several times. The UN reports that over 600 health facilities in the country have stopped functioning due to damages or lack of staff/supplies, affecting the access to healthcare of millions of people. Taiz city is one of the worst-affected areas of Yemen, with intense fighting including daily shelling in the densely populated inner city, and has not seen any ceasefire since July 2015. A cholera outbreak has also wreaked havoc in a country with a struggling health system. In March 2017, the city of Abs registered its first cholera case. By June, the MSF cholera treatment centre in Abs was receiving as high as 460 cholera cases in a single day. In December 2017, MSF scaled up its response to an emerging diphtheria outbreak.

Coalition forces move on Hodeidah: 'Our concern is that fighting could turn Hodeidah into a besieged city'

On June 13, 2018, forces loyal to President Hadi, supported by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC), officially launched an offensive to take Hodeidah city from Ansar Allah (Al Houthis). There are still 600,000 people living in the city. Most of Yemen’s imports pass through Hodeidah’s port on the Red Sea, making it one of the few lifelines left for people living in northern Yemen. MSF is currently increasing its medical capacity in the area.

“One of our major concerns is that fighting inside the city centre could turn Hodeidah into a besieged city, with civilians caught inside. The trenches and barricades, as well as the ongoing fighting, are making it more and more dangerous for civilians to move around, even with ambulances. Cases of people injured by landmines with no ambulance able to reach them were also reported to us. MSF is worried that basic access to health facilities, such as emergency rooms, and maternity or paediatric wards, will become even more limited for communities already affected by more than three years of war."

'What we see most are bullet wounds': MSF staff and patients describe the impact of Yemen's war

Haydan village lies just a few kilometres from the frontline in Saada governorate, a mountainous region with almost no medical facilities. The endless barrage of airstrikes makes transport here extremely challenging. 

In March 2017, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams returned to the hospital in Haydan that had been bombed and destroyed by Saudi warplanes in October 2015. MSF teams provide healthcare to isolated communities in Haydan as well as the remote surrounding area.

Timeline of the Conflict

This timeline was created in order to present the key events since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, as well as the development of MSF efforts to improve access to health care for the population. As the health care system collapses to a critical state, MSF is continuing to expand its activities.


'Our presence is important': A Canadian nurse on how MSF provides a lifeline to people trapped by conflict in Yemen

Mariko Miller understands the effect that repeated exposure to patient trauma can have on healthcare workers. As an experienced Vancouver nurse, she is aware of the importance of preventing emotional burnout among medical staff.

So one of the things she found most remarkable about working at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in the city of Taiz in Yemen — where she recently spent three months helping provide medical care to people affected by the country’s recent conflict — was the attitude of her Yemeni colleagues.

“The kindness among our staff was really incredible,” she says. “Just watching some of the doctors I worked with, and the way they treated patients, was something I found really inspiring. The levels of empathy were so high, and people were so careful to be caring. I’ve worked in ERs in Canada, and I know it can be hard for people to sustain that and to not burn out, so to see people in a place exposed to so much trauma still manage to hold on to that fundamental empathy was really remarkable.”

“The impact of our presence is really tangible,” she continues. “I don’t know how many times, just walking into the hospital, I would meet people thanking me and us for being there. Often an older lady just wanted to kiss me on my forehead to say thanks to MSF.” The lack of most available alternatives for free good quality care has made MSF’s medical programs lifelines for many people. “We were able to stabilize traumas, and admit the pediatric and neonatal emergency cases and patients who otherwise had limited access to services. The conflict has put that out of reach for so many,” Miller says.


MSF activities in Yemen

MSF works in 13 hospitals and health centers in Yemen and provides support to more than 20 hospitals or health centres across 11 Yemeni governorates: Taiz, Aden, Al-Dhale’, Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb, Sana’a, Abyan, Shabwa and Lahj; with approximately 1,827 National staff and 93 International staff , making it among MSF´s largest missions in the world in terms of personnel.  For more details about the activities please check the online map.

Medical figures From March 2015 to December 2017:

  • War and violence wounded treated in MSF facilities: 72,29
  • Emergency room patients received in MSF facilities & MSF supported facilities: 718,802
  • Surgical interventions performed by MSF: 54,313
  • Children admitted to pediatric ward (non-violence cases): 23,411
  • Deliveries: 43,890
  • General consultations for internal displaced people: 205,240
  • Malaria cases treated: 10,291
  • Malnutrition cases treated: 9,515
  • Patients admitted to MSF Cholera Treatment Centres: 107,966


Yemen: 'On an average day in Taiz, we hear around five explosions per minute'

Arunn Jegan is a project coordinator who has worked with MSF since 2016. “I’ve just arrived in Taiz, Yemen," he writes, "where we support multiple hospitals on both sides of the front line. Although I read in the media before coming here how dire the humanitarian situation is, in my first week I really realize how desperate the situation is and how many challenges the population face on a daily basis. On January 24, the day of my arrival in Taiz, violence escalated along all the front lines around Taiz city. The last few days have been extremely heavy. Sadly, this is the daily life of people here. Over the last three days, we have treated more than 117 war wounded and the number continues to grow as we speak.'


Conflict and blockade preventing humanitarian access to Yemen

On November 6, 2017, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a complete blockade of Yemen, where the coalition is fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi rebel forces. The blockade has had a significant impact on the ability of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to continue delivering emergency medical care and humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering the conflict is causing to the people of Yemen.  


Yemen in figures

  • Population: 27.4 million (OCHA)
  • An estimated 22.2 million in need of humanitarian or protection support (OCHA)
  • 17 million people food insecure (OCHA)
  • 14.8 million people in need of basic healthcare (OCHA)
  • An estimated 4.5 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished (OCHA)
  • 2.9 million of IDPs and returnees (OCHA)
  • 1,900 out of 3,507 health facilities in 16 governorates are either non-functional or partially functioning (WHO)
  • 9,245 conflict-related civilians deaths and 52,807 injuries (WHO – 12/17) 



Humanitarian crisis in Yemen needs to stop: MSF speaks out for more financial and diplomatic help

For more than three years, Yemen has been divided by a violent war. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been one of the few agencies providing aid and medical care to people affected by the conflict. On April 25, 2017, a gathering of international agencies and major funding organizations gathered in Geneva to discuss the crisis. MSF released the following statement:

Taiz: Healthcare Under Siege

The medical-humanitarian situation in Taiz, Yemen’s third most populous city, is extremely dire and only seems likely to further deteriorate. Shelling, airstrikes, crossfire, landmines and snipers are consistently injuring, maiming and killing local residents, while access to lifesaving healthcare has become increasingly limited.

Video: A Canadian nurse on coming under fire in Yemen

In the video above, Canadian Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) nurse Céline Langlois describes getting caught in the crossfire of the ongoing violent conflict in Yemen.