One woman and six newborns die every two hours from complications during pregnancy or childbirth in Yemen - UNICEF

14 June 2019
A newborn baby girl born on 31 Dec 2018 lies in nursery at 22 May Hospital in Dolaa Hamdan, Sana'a Governorate. More than four years of armed conflict in Yemen have served to worsen the situation of women and children at birth within a country that was already the poorest in the Middle East and one of the world’s most impoverished even before the war escalated early in 2015.
Newborn girl born on 31 Dec 2018 lies in nursery at 22 May Hospital in Dolaa Hamdan, Sana'a Governorate.

NEW YORK/AMMAN/SANA’A, 14 June 2019 – One woman and six newborns die every two hours in Yemen from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, UNICEF said today in the first of a series of short snapshots on maternal and newborn health Yemen.

“Bringing life into the world in Yemen can all too often turn into a tragedy for entire families,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Decades of underdevelopment and years of intense fighting have left essential public services, including crucial healthcare for mothers and babies, on the brink of total collapse.”

The Childbirth and parenting in a war zone series, released this week, also notes that the maternal mortality rate has risen sharply since the escalation of the conflict, from five maternal deaths a day in 2013 to 12 maternal deaths a day in 2018.

Additional findings include:

  • 1 out of every 260 women dies in pregnancy or childbirth;
  • Only 3 out of 10 births take place in health facilities;
  • 1 in 37 new-born babies die in the first month of life;
  • 1 in 15 adolescent girls between the age of 15 and 19 has given birth;
  • 1.1 million pregnant and breastfeeding women need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

Access to quality ante- and post-natal health services is key to newborn and maternal survival. In the absence of adequate services, and because of lack of access and unaffordable transport costs, community health workers are fast becoming ‘providers of last resort’ for women and children – especially in remote, rural and war-affected areas. However, they too face challenges such as insecurity and the lack of supplies and transport.

Half of all health facilities in Yemen are not functional due to staff shortages, lack of supplies, inability to meet operational costs or limited access. Those still running face severe shortages in medicine, equipment and staff, putting lives at risk.

Working with partners on the ground, UNICEF is supporting community-based service delivery and primary healthcare facilities, with a focus on continuous care before and during the pregnancy, around the time of birth and after birth for both mother and baby.

At the community level, UNICEF and partners also support community midwives and health volunteers to provide case management of common childhood illnesses and home-based maternal and newborn care.

UNICEF is calling on all parties to the conflict and the international community to:

  • Focus resources on the poor, marginalized and internally displaced communities.
  • Protect the health care system in the country, with specific attention to primary healthcare.
  • Resume salary payments for health sector workers and support incentives for staff involved in delivering lifesaving services.
  • Sustain and scale up social health protection schemes such as cash transfers for vulnerable families and health vouchers.

“Antenatal care and skilled health attendance at delivery are essential to the survival of both mothers and babies,” said Fore. “As the world marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we renew our call for all children – in Yemen and elsewhere – to enjoy their full rights to health, education, protection and peace.”


Notes for editors: 

During the month of June, UNICEF is calling on governments to step up investment in the lives of young children, through providing them with safe spaces to play and learn to workplace policies that give parents the time they need to support their young children’s development. 


UNICEF’s Every Child ALIVE, a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns, is calling on governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses to keep every mother and child alive by:

  1. Investing financial resources in health systems, starting at the community level;
  2. Recruiting, training, retaining and managing sufficient numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives with expertise in maternal and newborn care;
  3. Guaranteeing clean, functional health facilities equipped with water, soap and electricity, within the reach of every mother and baby;
  4. Making it a priority to provide every mother and baby with the life-saving drugs and equipment needed for a healthy start in life;
  5. Empowering adolescent girls and families to demand and receive quality care.
  6. Registering all births, newborn deaths, and stillbirths.

Media contacts

Joe English
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Bismarck Swangin
UNICEF Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 777 236 548

Multimedia content


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook