UNICEF is committed to ensure that children and their families can benefit from lifesaving healthcare assistance and be protected from preventable diseases

A young boy being vaccinated
UNICEF Yemen/2018

The Challenge

With no end in sight to the conflict, the economic crisis, disease and displacement, the situation of Yemeni children and families is set to worsen, with an anticipated 24 million people (80 per cent of the population) in need of humanitarian assistance.

The escalation of the conflict in Yemen has left almost 20 million people, half of them children, in need of basic health care assistance.

These huge needs come at a time when the health system is on the brink of collapse. Half the health facilities have either been partially damaged or completely destroyed by conflict, and health workers have not been paid in the last two years. Medicines and medical equipment are in short supply. Outbreaks of epidemic and water-borne diseases such as cholera and diphtheria show how precarious public health is in the current situation.

Children under the age of five continue to represent more than a quarter of all suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhoea cases.

Without access to basic and obstetric health care, clean water, sanitation facilities, food and shelter, young children and mothers are becoming more vulnerable to infectious and preventable diseases.

The Solution

Using a mix of emergency response strategies, UNICEF and its partners are supporting the public health system to prevent its complete collapse and, where possible, to operate at pre-conflict levels. In areas with no functioning health centers, integrated mobile teams, community health workers and community midwives go in to screen children and women for malnutrition, diseases and pregnancy-related complications and provide treatment where possible or refer cases to facilities. 

A community health volunteer examining a child in Sana'a governorate.
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Taha Almahbashi
A community health worker examining a child in Sana'a governorate.

Over 1 million children under 5 years and 723,497pregnant and lactating women received primary health care in this way in 2018.

UNICEF continues to scale up its vaccination services to reach as many children as possible to protect them from preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus and polio, among others.

  • Given the onset of other diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and measles, UNICEF has continued to prioritize and expand its immunization activities in Yemen. Three integrated outreach rounds have been implemented in 301 out of the 333 districts in the country to improve immunization coverage among children under one in 2018.
  • In 2018, we conducted two Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaigns to combat cholera outbreaks in high risk areas. They reached over 1.5 million people in Aden, Al Hudaydah and Ibb governorates under extremely harsh conditions due to the escalation of violence, particularly in Al Hudaydah. Over 4.6 million children have been vaccinated against polio and 731,064 children under one against measles.

1.2 million people were reached in Aden, Al Hudaydah and Ibb governorates through Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaigns.

  • To contribute to a better health outcome for children, foster female empowerment and to bridge the gender gap, a community health workers network was launched in eight governorates and 28 districts, including Sana’a, Sa’ada, Hajjah, Ibb, Hodeida, Lahj, Abyan, Hadramout. In 2019, this will be scaled up to 11 governorates.  
  • UNICEF has supported the operationalization of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) centers in phases, achieving 1,000 EPI centers in the first phase and more than 700 EPI centers in the second phase, along with 120,000 liters of diesel provided on a quarterly basis to cold rooms at central and governorate level.

In 2018, 121 mobile teams provided a package of health and nutrition services to mothers and children mainly in areas lacking health facilities, hard to reach areas and locations with displaced communities.

  • In addition to vaccination campaigns, UNICEF integrates its cholera response with WASH and C4D (communication for development) activities, especially in cholera-prone areas. This includes raising awareness around hygiene practices, community efforts to clean public spaces and to improve water and sanitation infrastructure as well as water trucking for access to clean water.
  • In 2019, UNICEF will focus on improving access to primary health care by providing supplies and responding to communicable disease outbreaks.