Measles Cases Rise in Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2023-08-18 12:18 AM UTC


The cases of measles patients admitted to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospitals in several Yemeni provinces have nearly tripled in the first half of 2023, at almost 4,000, compared to the whole of 2022, said Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Friday, August 18. 

With almost a decade of political turbulence and civil war, Yemen's health sector has largely deteriorated, and the living situation of millions of families has worsened. According to the MSF report, malnutrition and the absence of medical healthcare are prime factors for the country's rise in measles cases. 

In 2022, twenty-two thousand measles cases were recorded in Yemen, including 161 deaths. In 2023, the cases have already spiked to 9,418, with 77 children dead.

The report stated, "Economic hardship, fuelled by violent conflict, makes it extremely difficult for people in remote areas to pay for fuel or transport to bring their children to the hospital.

Moreover, the absence of vaccination campaigns and the lack of affordable and functional general healthcare facilities in the country have contributed to the rise of measles cases. Measles is a contagious viral infection that can quickly spread in densely populated areas and mainly affects children under five. 

MSF operates in multiple Yemeni provinces, including Amran, Sa'ada, Hajjah, Ibb, Hodeida, Taiz, Marib, and Shabwah. Its latest report pointed out that the lack of immunization appears to be driven by logistical barriers, including the restrictions on humanitarian imports and the limited number of equipped health facilities. 

In August last year, Yemen's Minister of Information Muammar Al-Eryani accused Ansar Allah (Houthi) Houthi authorities of restricting child immunization programs in Sanaa and other provinces controlled by the Houthis. 

Isaac Alcalde, MSF head of mission in Yemen, said measles cases dropped in 2019 and 2020, indicating that the decline was attributed to the massive vaccination campaign.

Alcalde added, "But the dramatic increase we've seen this year cannot be ignored – the caseload has nearly tripled, going up to almost 4,000, increasing the strain on medical facilities, which are already overloaded. These are not just numbers we're talking about – they're children's lives."

Since the breakout of the war in 2015, the health sector in Yemen has experienced vast damage and destruction. Only 51 percent of health facilities are considered fully functional, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).