According to the World Bank, two billion people are currently living in fragile and conflict-affected regions. Severe, long-standing conflicts present a serious challenge to universal healthcare, as the impacts are indiscriminate across the health system. Armed conflict is a global health issue: it means extreme violence, displacement, destroyed infrastructure and institutions, and professionals and facilities that are under violent attack. Governments, international bodies and humanitarian organisations have made attempts to protect health systems with policy, guidelines and frameworks, but are they prepared to cope at times of armed conflict?
Conflict is a global health challenge
In addition to the immediate impact of conflict, it also has a major effect on those already living with specific long-term healthcare needs, such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Most people with NCDs require carefully planned and long-term care, which becomes increasingly hard to access in volatile and insecure environments. In Yemen, the ongoing humanitarian crisis leaves many without access to essential care. Not even half of the health facilities are functioning, and those that remain open are without basic equipment. Because of this, NCDs now account for over half of all deaths caused by illness in Yemen.
Conflict zones can also make NCDs worse, particularly cardiovascular diseases. This is concerning, as not only does a conflict environment increase risk factors for heart disease, but there are few (or even no) services available to manage it.