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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

5 reasons why Yemen needed an emergency number and the EU is supporting it

Inside view of an ambulance. 2 doctors attending to a person on a stretcher.
© WHO/Comra

A number where anyone anywhere can reach emergency services at all times of day and night seems evident since Europe adopted 112 as its emergency number in 1991. But that’s not the case everywhere. In Yemen, a country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, such a service was needed but lacking until the EU stepped in to help.

In this war-torn country, the EU funds the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen lifesaving prehospital trauma and emergency care in and around the city of Aden. After a call to the free 195 emergency number, 1,965 patients were treated and transferred from April to December 2022.

Here we explain why 195 is so critical in Yemen.

1. Yemen has a high number of conflict-related trauma cases

Almost 8 years of conflict have taken a heavy toll on the population. Trauma is the third leading cause of disability in the country and places an enormous burden on healthcare services. In 2022, Yemen recorded the highest country caseload of conflict-related trauma in the Eastern Mediterranean Region for the fifth consecutive year.

On average, 50 children are killed and 90 are wounded or permanently disabled each month, most of them harmed by explosive weapons such as mines.

Injuries account for 60% of deaths among children aged 5 to 14 and 36% among 15 to 64-year-olds. Yet the country has no formalised prehospital services, except those supported by EU humanitarian aid in Aden and provided by WHO in partnership with the health ministry.

Medics attending a person next to a car.
Time is of the essence
© WHO/Comra

2. Millions of displaced people need access to health services and emergency care

Over 4.3 million Yemenis have had to flee their homes and are now internally displaced, sometimes in locations where health services are far and few between.

Many displaced have made their way to the major cities. In Aden and its surroundings, the 195 service is accessible to over 1 million people, many of whom are displaced and vulnerable.

3. Yemen’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse

EU humanitarian experts observe a first aid refresher training.
EU humanitarian experts observe a first aid refresher training.
© WHO Yemen/Nesma Khan

More than 20 million people in Yemen lack access to critical health services and need health assistance. Economic decline, COVID-19 and conflict have left the health sector in tatters.

Only half of the health facilities are partially functional or non-functional due to staff, funding and power shortages, as well as a lack of medicines, supplies and equipment, according to the Health Resources and Services Availability Monitoring System (HeRAMS), 2022 update.

The impact of our partnership with WHO on trauma and emergency care in Aden is huge,” says EU humanitarian aid expert Félix Leger, considering that half of all emergency cases are trauma related.

This involves running a referral system with 11 ambulances, 33 trained paramedics and drivers, 14 operating staff, and a 24/7 centre picking and dispatching the 195 calls. “Everything is free of charge, not just the number but also the ambulance services,” says Félix.

Handling the phones at the Emergency Operational Centre
Handling the phones at the Emergency Operational Centre
© WHO Yemen/Nesma Khan

4. Trauma patients not immediately treated risk life-long disability

Prehospital care saves lives and can prevent disability. In humanitarian crises, the burden of disability has enormous consequences. It affects people’s ability to function, move around, earn a living, help their families, and impacts the whole society.

Many patients have suffered traumatic injuries resulting in severe bleeding, bone fractures, and coma,” says Manal Mohammed, a paramedic who specialised in emergency prehospital care. 

The challenges we face include street traffic, unpaved roads, and security checkpoints that require us to open the ambulance door while the patient is in critical condition before we are allowed to pass.

Ambulance paramedics like Manal are trained in first aid procedures during conflict and emergencies and are equipped to stabilise patients quickly.

Photo of Manal in a hospital ward.
Paramedic Manal mentions security checkpoints as a major challenge.
© WHO/Comra

5. It is a humanitarian imperative to reduce loss of life and lessen suffering

Yemen continues to be one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. In very few places around the world 2/3 of the population in need of humanitarian assistance as in Yemen. Millions of Yemenis are displaced and destitute and face a deepening humanitarian and economic crisis.

Conflict, high food and fuel prices, collapsing public services, and frequent disease outbreaks such as cholera or natural hazards such as floods make functional emergency services critical.

Humanitarian aid is an expression of European solidarity, and the EU has been a longstanding humanitarian donor in Yemen.

Story by Anouk Delafortrie, Regional Information Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, with input from WHO Yemen.
Publication date: 11/02/2023