Yemen’s Waiting Rooms: The Dire Healthcare Shortage

August 4, 2021

Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

In Yemen, over 20 million people require some form of health assistance. Children are particularly affected by increasing rates of malnutrition, and women, particularly pregnant and new mothers, have limited or no access to reproductive health services. 

According to the World Health Organization[1], only 51 per cent of health facilities in Yemen are fully functional, but often they cannot provide adequate care.

In Al Batarya, in Hajjah governorate, the community is living alongside Yemenis displaced from neighbouring districts. Fleeing from violent conflict, their property destroyed, many families have been left with no shelter, food, or even regular access to sanitation and water. Malnutrition looms over younger generations, with families barely able to afford food due to skyrocketing prices. 

According to the Social Fund for Development, in 2019 the number of residents in Al Batarya exceeded 7,000. This a community with only one healthcare facility. 

“In mid-2020, I could barely find time to drink water. Everyone was in pain and dozens of patients were lined up - either in the waiting room or outside the unit. It was unbelievable...I have not seen such a need in any rural health facility during the past years,” says Ibrahim, an assistant doctor working in Al-Radha health facility.

The only health facility in Al Batarya, this small building plays a key role in treating illnesses associated with severe food insecurity. But the influx of displaced people has led to overcrowding, as well as shortages in medicine and vaccines.

As the conflict continued and displacement only increased, residents were in dire need of better access to health services. Except the next closest health facility is 20km from Al Batarya, or a 20,000 YR taxi ride, and for patients who can hardly afford food, this is an impossible fee. 

This leaves most residents with no other choice but to wait long hours for treatment, hoping to see a doctor and a prescription to relieve the pain. 

Thankfully, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Social Fund for Development (SFD) has helped established a sub-district committee (SDC) in Al Batarya. The SDC was responsible for identifying the needs of their community and developing an action plan accordingly. 

Undoubtedly, women SDC members have played a leading role in amplifying the voice of rural women and highlighting the urgent need for reproductive health services, including family planning, antenatal and postnatal care, safe delivery, and care for infants and newborns who suffer most commonly from malnutrition.

Credit: UNDP Yemen/2021

In early 2020, SFD announced the delivery of a financial grant of US$ 20,000 and the contribution of 2,000 bricks (equivalent to US$ 4,000) to build three additional rooms over a four-month period.

“After the expansion of the health facility, we are receiving at least 70-80 cases per day,” exclaims Dr. Ibrahim. This is a daily increase of almost 30 patients, who now receive care thanks to the support of three new volunteers trained in midwifery.

The health facility now provides reproductive health services, child vaccinations, malnutrition treatment and basic first aid to 3,015 families, including 1,191 displaced families.  

"The construction of the new extension has greatly contributed to the decreased suffering of displaced and host community members. It saves us the trouble of going to Abs General Hospital and other faraway health centres," Adnan Makin, a resident of Al-Radha village says.

The situation in Al Batarya is just a snapshot the struggle experienced in Abs district, which has witnessed a high rate of displacement due to the conflict, becoming classified as a district with notably high rates of food insecurity – including 78,811 malnourishment cases[2].

Thanks to UNDP’s successful partnership with the European Union (EU) & the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), our local partner, SFD, has been able to enhance the delivery of critical health services by establishing community compact initiatives and implementing small-scale projects that improve health infrastructure in rural Yemen. 

A total of US$ 160,000 was invested to build extensions for four health facilities in four vulnerable sub-districts of Abs, in addition to construction of a healthcare unit for fever treatment In Abs General Hospital. Approximately, 35,000 thousand people will benefit from these interventions.


These activities were implemented as a part of the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods and Food Security in Yemen Joint Programme (ERRYJP II). The Programme aims to strengthen the resilience capacity of crisis-affected communities through the creation of sustainable livelihoods and access to basic services. 


[2] According to Multi-cluster famine risk reduction data from 2019