Press Release

Urgent funding needed to provide protection and health services to millions of women in Yemen

01 March 2021

NEW YORK, USA - More than 100,000 women could die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in Yemen,  the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, due to severe funding shortages and the possible closure of reproductive health facilities. The situation is compounded by  rising risks posed by COVID-19 and a looming famine. To save lives, UNFPA is calling for urgent funding of $100 million to provide reproductive healthcare and women’s protection services until the end of 2021.  

“If lifesaving reproductive health and protection services stop, it will be catastrophic for women and girls in Yemen - placing them at even greater risk,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “Funding is urgently needed to save lives and to keep facilities open to protect the health, safety and dignity of women and adolescent girls.”    

As it stands now, only 20 per cent of health facilities provide maternal and child health services due to staff shortages, lack of supplies, inability to meet operational costs, or damage due to the conflict.  Equipment and medical supplies are inadequate or obsolete and health workers have not been paid, or have only been irregularly paid, in more than four years.

A severe funding shortage in 2021 will force UNFPA to cut back lifesaving services further, placing the lives of nearly 4 million million women and girls in grave danger. 

Women and girls are paying the heaviest price in a conflict they did not bring about, bearing a disproportionate burden of the conflict, as they strive to care for their families. An estimated 73 per cent of the over 4 million people displaced in Yemen are women and children.  Thirty per cent of displaced households are now headed by females, compared to 9 per cent before the escalation of the conflict in 2015. 

The protection needs of women and girls also remain urgent. Reported cases of gender-based violence are rising, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 6 million women need urgent access to gender-based violence services.  Child marriage rates are escalating. A UNFPA study across three governorates showed that rates of child marriage were highest among displaced populations, with 1 in 5 displaced girls aged 10 to 19 years being married, compared to 1 in 8 girls in the host community. 

Funding UNFPA will help  reproductive health and women’s protection services to continue to function and save lives.

“Yemeni women and girls cannot afford to wait”, said Dr. Kanem. “We must prioritize their needs and rights and act now. Their lives are at stake."

Reality for Women of Childbearing Age in Yemen:

  • A woman dies every two hours from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 1.2 million women are acutely malnourished.
  • One in three women would like to use family planning but are not able to use it. 
  • For every woman who dies during childbirth, another 20 suffer injuries, infections or disabilities that are preventable. 
  • Six out of ten births take place without a skilled birth attendant.
  • A woman in Yemen has a one in 60 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Four out of ten women do not receive antenatal care from a skilled provider.

People in Need:

  • Total Population – 30.8 million  
  • Total people in need – 20.7 million
  • People in need of protection – 15. 8 million 
  • People in need of assistance to access healthcare – 20.1 million
  • Women of reproductive age in need of support – 5.0 million
  • Women in need of GBV services – 6.1 million


Please find photos here.

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About UNFPA:

UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. UNFPA's mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA calls for the realization of reproductive rights for all and supports access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning, quality maternal health care and comprehensive sexuality education.

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