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Feature Medical Emergencies

How Yemen’s healthcare has been destroyed

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 22 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n3110
  1. Geetanjali Krishna, freelance journalist,
  2. Sally Howard, freelance journalist
  1. New Delhi and London
  1. indiastoryagency{at}

The Houthi assault on Marib, the last government stronghold in north Yemen, is the latest volley in a vicious seven year civil war that has left Yemen’s healthcare system in tatters and its population facing starvation, report Geetanjali Krishna and Sally Howard

They arrive at Marib General Hospital every day in their hundreds: adults and children wounded by the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The war has intensified since September, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels launched an assault on the last city in northern Yemen still controlled by the internationally recognised government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

On a typical day in October the hospital treated a pregnant woman with blast injuries to her chest, a child with multiple shrapnel wounds, and a 2 month old baby with a traumatic brain injury caused by Houthi missile fire.

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned about the impact of the conflict on the civilian population during the recent escalations,” says Allen Murphy, MSF project coordinator for Marib, where the organisation’s medical staff support government facilities.

Patients arrive at the 120 bed government hospital malnourished and with infectious diseases including diphtheria, cholera, and covid-19, now in its third wave.

“Marib is hosting more than 70% of Yemen’s internally displaced people, which puts huge pressure on healthcare services,” says Basheer Al-Selwi, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ health response in Yemen. In this conflict hotspot, Houthis have been indiscriminately firing on civilians1 in a campaign to consolidate their grip on the country’s north, according to Human Rights Watch. Forty makeshift refugee camps have now been set up on the city’s outskirts.

Marib is the latest epicentre in a humanitarian crisis in Yemen that the UN has called the “worst in the world” …

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