Measles and Rubella Cases Rise in Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2023-09-01 11:02 AM UTC


The number of deaths caused by measles and rubella in Yemen has jumped since last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. This rise in deaths occurs amidst economic decline, displacement, overcrowded living conditions in camps, and overwhelmed health system.

According to the WHO, as of 31 July this year, suspected measles and rubella cases in Yemen reached almost 34,300 cases and 413 deaths, compared to 27,000 cases and 220 deaths in 2022.

Viruses cause both measles and rubella, and lack of vaccination contributes to the outbreak of these diseases. The WHO-UNICEF National Immunization Coverage Estimate indicated that 27 percent of Yemeni children under one year of age in Yemen did not receive vaccination for measles and rubella in 2022. 

Over the past years, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) media outlets have promoted an anti-vaccination agenda, persuading families to avoid taking their children to vaccination centers.

Although international organization, including Doctors Without Borders, says that a lack of access to routine vaccination can lead to outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles, tetanus, and diphtheria, the Houthi authorities in Sanaa remain adamant that vaccines are unsafe.

In February this year, Houthi-supported organizations in Sanaa launched a seminar titled ‘The Danger of Vaccines to Humanity’. Prime Minister of the Houthi government, Abdulaziz bin Habtour, and the Minister of Health attended the seminar.

Since the war in Yemen began in 2025, the UN estimated that the conflict had killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021 through direct and indirect causes. The armed conflict killed over 150,000  people. However, more deaths were caused by hunger and diseases.