Yemen: the effects of the conflict on mental health

Young Yemeni woman in Socotra Islands Young Yemeni woman in Socotra Islands Andrea Svk via Unsplash

10 October 2022

In Yemen, the tragedies of the war lead 79% of school-age children to suffer from post-traumatic stress and 55% has mild or severe forms of depression.

For over seven years, a civil war has been going on in Yemen between the Yemeni government, led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and the Houthi armed movement, supported by many allies among the civilian population.

After the failure of the political transition - which should have brought stability to the country with the deposition of the historic dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in favor of Hadi - and the outbreak of the war, Yemen has plunged into an unprecedented health emergency. The shortage of food and drinking water, the weakness of the health care system and the rapid spread of massive epidemics of cholera and diphtheria have weighed on the living conditions of civilians and deprived families of basic needs.

In addition to the devastating consequences of the war, the psychological conditions of the population affected by the conflict take on importance within the health emergency underway in the country.

The growing global focus on mental health as an integral element of the right to health highlights the dramatic situation in an area affected by incessant armed conflict. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are victims of wars are more likely to suffer from mental illness than people living in peaceful countries. Furthermore, children are mainly affected by it: they show symptoms of post-traumatic stress from an early age. According to a WHO report on Yemen, 79% of school-age children is affected. Furthermore, 55% suffers from mild or severe forms of depression and 19% are constantly in a state of fear. Among the adult population in 70% of the cases the disorders occur long before the actual request for help. The dramatic life conditions for most of the population overshadow the importance of mental health, thus delaying the beginning of the healing treatments.

To face this dramatic situation, over the years the WHO has launched various funding programs and initiatives. In addition to aid to combat the food emergency and the spread of epidemics, the WHO has proposed a series of initiatives and programs to restore adequate health care in the country. For example, prevention and treatment programs are already in place in the city of Hajjah where there are more than 400 monthly patients in the hospital's mental health department, programs that will be further strengthened with the help of international contributions.

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by Federica Tognolli


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