LONDON, Feb 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A lack of
funds is putting millions of Yemenis at risk of disease and
malnutrition as the country's collapsing health system faces
shortages of medicines, fuel and specialist staff, the World
Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Nearly two years of war between a Western-backed Arab
coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the Iran-allied Houthi
movement has left more than half of Yemen's 28 million people
facing hunger, its economy in ruins and food supplies disrupted.
Earlier this month the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP)
warned that more than 20 million people may starve in the next
six months in four separate famines in Yemen, Nigeria, South
Sudan and Somalia.
In Yemen alone, an estimated 7.3 million people are in need
of immediate food aid, WFP said.
Worried that polio could reappear in the war-ravaged nation,
Yemen on Tuesday launched a major vaccination campaign.
"With more than 14.8 million people lacking access to basic
health care, the current lack of funds means the situation will
get much worse," Nevio Zagaria, WHO's acting representative in
Yemen, said in a statement.
Last year, U.N. agencies including WHO, received less than
60 percent of their appeal for $182 million to support Yemen's
So far this year's appeal for $322 million for healthcare
has been less than 1 percent funded, according to the U.N.
Financial Tracking Service.
WHO said only 45 percent of Yemen's health facilities were
fully functional and accessible.
Highly specialised medical staff, including intensive care
doctors, psychiatrists and foreign nurses, have left the
country, and the health workers that have remained have not
received regular salaries since September, the agency said.
Lack of money has forced Al-Tharwa hospital in the Red Sea
port of Hodeidah - the main functioning health facility in the
region - to stop providing food to its patients.
"There are acute shortages of certain medicines and we need
more fuel to ensure the hospital has electricity," hospital
director, Khaled Suhail, said in a statement, adding that with
no funds to cover operational costs, he did not know if the
hospital would be open in a month's time.
WHO said nearly 4.5 million Yemenis, including 2 million
children, need assistance in treating or preventing malnutrition
- a 150 percent increase since late 2014.
"We urgently need resources to help support the health
system as a whole, and are calling on donors to scale-up their
support before more innocent lives are lost unnecessarily,"
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @magdalenamis1; Please credit the
Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.