The Crisis in Yemen

Life has been a struggle for the Yemeni people for years, due to poverty, chronic malnutrition and a weak healthcare system. In 2015, armed conflict escalated into a full-scale war in the country, exacerbating already massive medical and humanitarian needs. By year’s end, it is estimated that 2,800 people had been killed and 2.5 millions were internally displaced. The healthcare system has been decimated: medical staff have fled the country, facilities have been destroyed and medical supplies cut. Sadly, the international emergency response to the crisis has not attracted the support that it should and has been limited in its scope and impact.

MSF managed to continue operating its emergency trauma centre in the port of Aden. In other areas it scaled up its activities as much as security allowed, despite an attack that destroyed a hospital it supports, and another attack on its tented clinic which wounded nine. These targeted attacks on health facilities have fostered a climate of fear. Many Yemenis are now too afraid to go to hospital for treatment.

Five field workers who were deployed by MSF-Hong Kong to Yemen recount what they witnessed on the front line.

© Guillaume Binet / MYOP
War-wounded patients receive emergency care at the MSF-operated hospital in Aden

Dr. Au Yiu-kai, Paul, a Hong Kong surgeon working in the Aden project

“We had 8 to 12 operations a day. Most of the injuries were caused by gunshots or bomb blasts and sometimes we saw very bad fractures. One night, heavy fighting erupted. Our hospital activated the mass casualty plan immediately and admitted more than 20 patients, including 5 cases that needed emergency surgeries. Our team had to work overnight to stabilise their condition.”

Dr. Karina Marie Aguilar, a Filippino anaesthetist working in the Aden Project

“The weapons embargo imposed disrupted supplies of medicines and fuel. We didn't know if our supplies would arrive. Our pharmacy was almost empty. At one point, we had to use industrial suction tubing for our patients with gunshot wounds to the chest because we ran out of chest tubes.”

© Benoit Finck / MSF
MSF medical staff working in an operating theatre at the emergency surgical unit in Aden

© Guillaume Binet / MYOP
A child approaches an MSF vehicle in the besieged city of Aden, which has been blockaded for four months with the residents desparately short of food and medical supplies

© Narciso Contreras / MSF
Displaced oeople fleeing heavy fighting living in a temporary settlement in Hajjah governorate

© Narciso Contreras / MSF
A displaced child waits for water distribution in a temporary settlement in Hajjah governorate

Leung Hon-zoen, Eric, a Hong Kong logistician working in the Hajjah project

“In the northwestern part of Yemen where fighting was intense, there were only two international humanitarian organisations working for the displaced people, far from sufficient to meet their needs. They sought refuge in the desert, and the temperature could go up to 40 degrees. All they had were simple shelters made out of wooden poles and plastic sheeting.”

© Guillaume Binet / MYOP
Petrol import restrictions caused by the weapons embargo created shortages and price levels became 400 times higher

Chai Xi, Cathy, a Beijing administrator working in the Hajjah project

“Shortly after midnight, a loud ‘bang’ woke me up. I jumped out of bed, and hurried to the safe room with my teammates. We were tired and sleepy, but at the same time feeling very tense. This was my first experience with hearing airstrikes. It was impossible to get used to that.”

© Rawan Shaif
A staff member clears debris on the roof of the MSF-supported hospital in Haydan, Sa’ada governorate. Although the organisation’s logo had been painted on its roof, the facility was still destroyed by airstrikes

Chiu Cheuk-pong, a Hong Kong nurse working in the Sa’ada project

“Every time when we heard the sound of explosions or airstrikes, my translator would turn to me and ask, ‘What can we do?’ And every time, I wasn’t able to give him a useful reply. There is nothing they can do to stop the airstrikes and the fighting. There is no way they can leave the country. These innocent civilians are being trapped in this ruthless conflict, which simply takes hope away.”

© Sebastiano Tomada / Getty Reportage
A father holds his wounded child at the MSF-supported hospital in Sa'ada city

© Yann Geay / MSF
With the destruction of the MSF-supported hospital in Haydan by airstrikes, 200,000 people are deprived of lifesaving medical care