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War-torn Yemen Facing Health Crisis

Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, center, walks near houses destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike during his visit to the old city of Sana'a, Yemen, Aug. 9, 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns the war in Yemen is having a catastrophic effect on the country's health care system and leaving millions without access to medical treatment.

WHO says Yemen’s health care system is collapsing as a consequence of the war and a severe funding shortage. It says more than 15 million people, including 1.2 million who have fled their homes, are in need of health services and life-saving assistance.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says almost 23 percent, or close to 300 health facilities in the country, are either non-functional or only partially functional because of the ongoing violence.

He notes additional facilities continue to close down week by week.

“Most recently, there was a renal dialysis center in Haradh Governorate," said Jasarevic. "Haradh Governorate is in the central part and is being affected by the violence. It was forced to close down due to the insecurity preventing patients and staff to come to work. Now this center was treating around 50 chronic renal failure cases per month and because of this closure, people have to go to other functioning renal dialysis centers…making more load for those centers.”

People gather on the rubble of shops destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike at a market in Sana'a, Yemen, July 20, 2015.
People gather on the rubble of shops destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike at a market in Sana'a, Yemen, July 20, 2015.

In its latest update, the World Health Organization reports that between March 19, when Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign in Yemen, and August 5, 4,345 people have been killed and more than 22,000 wounded.

Jasarevic notes the health care crisis is being worsened by health professionals fleeing the violence.

“This leads obviously to shortages of qualified health workers, creating gaps in the provision of primary health care, trauma and surgical care, as well as obstetric care," said Jasarevic. "Shortages of power and fuel resulted in the closure of intensive care units and operation rooms in almost all hospitals across the country.”

WHO has appealed for $151 million to provide health care for internally displaced people until the end of the year. It only has received $23 million, leaving a funding gap of 85 percent.

The U.N. health agency warns many more critical health care services will be forced to shut down unless the funding materializes.