Hidden cost of war: In Yemen, thousands could die of kidney failure

06 February 2018
Hidden cost of war: In Yemen, thousands could die of kidney failure
Yemenis suffering from kidney failure receive dialysis treatment at Al-Joumhouri Hospital in Sana’a, Yemen, 31 January 2018

Sana'a/Geneva (ICRC): Thousands of Yemenis with kidney failure are at risk of dying unless the country's remaining dialysis centres receive more supplies and its medical staff are paid, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday.

The conflict in Yemen has ravaged the country's infrastructure, leading to catastrophes such as the recent cholera crisis. But the damage to the Yemen's health care sector is so vast that individuals with chronic diseases can't access life-saving treatment.

An astonishing 25% of dialysis patients in Yemen have died every year since conflict began in 2015. More dialysis supplies, functioning dialysis machines, and funding for staff salaries are urgently needed to ensure the mortality rate does not rise further for Yemen's 4,400 renal failure patients.

"The urgent needs of dialysis patients underscore how the crisis in Yemen has devastated the country's health care system, negatively affecting many people with long-term health concerns," said Alexandre Faite, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen.

Travel to dialysis centers is frequently an odyssey of checkpoints and insecurity. Anis Saleh Abdallah, 42, must travel 250 kilometers from his home in Lahj to attend twice-weekly sessions at the ICRC-supported dialysis center in Aden's Al Joumhouria Hospital.

"The trip is not only very costly but also long and agonizing. I am too weak for this," said Abdallah, who has been forced to skip some treatments because the journey was too risky.

Of the 32 dialysis centres Yemen had before the war, four have closed. The other 28 are struggling to provide services, with broken machines, a lack of essential supplies and unpaid staff. Patients normally require three, four-hour sessions per week. In Yemen the fragile situation has forced patients to cut back to two sessions.

"Reducing the weekly dialysis sessions causes increased side-effects and a lower quality of life. Without dialysis treatment, the outcome is fatal," said Faite. "It is critical that urgent support is provided to the Yemeni authorities to enable treatment in the remaining functioning dialysis centers and to address the desperate needs of renal failure patients."

The ICRC supports five dialysis centers in Yemen: in Sana'a, Aden, Shabwa, Mahwitt and Hajja.

Please find the latest footage from Yemen here.

For further information, please contact:
Mirella Hodeib, ICRC Sana'a, +967 73 050 0719
Adnan Hizam, ICRC Sana'a, +967 73 372 1659
Iolanda Jaquemet, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 447 37 26