East Africa and Yemen Crisis

More than 20 million people are now at risk in East Africa, where ongoing armed conflict, depleted food supplies and disease outbreaks threaten their survival, according to the United Nations. South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia are among the countries most affected by what is being called the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Direct Relief is responding to medical needs in South Sudan, northern Uganda, Somalia and Yemen with a focus on cholera control, safe deliveries for mothers and babies, and basic health services for displaced populations. (Photo by the Edna Adan Hospital.)

In February 2017, famine was formally declared in parts of South Sudan, where violence, paired with disease and malnutrition, heightened the daily challenges faced by thousands.

Millions have fled to neighboring countries, including northern Uganda, to claim refugee status in response to internal violence and disease outbreaks. As a result, basic health services for displaced populations are increasingly needed.

Armed conflict also continues in Yemen, where already weak health systems and fragile economies continue to exacerbate the prevalence of disease. Two years of internal violence have drained basic resources, leaving communities vulnerable to an array of hardships.

Meanwhile, severe drought is affecting 3.3 million people in Somalia, according to the WHO, and cholera cases continue to rise from a lack of clean water and sanitation.

The need for humanitarian relief is significant.

Direct Relief’s Response

Direct Relief is supporting healthcare providers on the front lines in South Sudan, northern Uganda, Somalia and Yemen. With a focus on maternal and child health, in addition to disease prevention, Direct Relief is shipping critical medical aid to assist communities suffering from malnutrition and disease outbreaks. (Direct Relief photo)

South Sudan

In South Sudan, Direct Relief is coordinating its response with Real Medicine Foundation (RMF), the Healing Kadi Foundation, and Save the Children, providing essential medical items such as rehydration supplies and antifungal medicines to address an increase in diseases that pose significant risks to public health.

With funding from the National Ministry of Health, RMF supports Juba Teaching Hospital, a 580-bed facility working to provide quality healthcare to over 10 million people in South Sudan.

Direct Relief has made water purification bags and personal care packs available to RMF, in addition to cholera kits. These kits include supplies like tubing and oral rehydration salts, which help ensure people are consuming safe, clean drinking water and can quickly rehydrate.

Direct Relief is also supporting the Healing Kadi Foundation, a nonprofit in Kajo Keji sending teams of medical professionals to remote areas to care for the region’s most vulnerable communities.

Dr. Jospeh Dumba, the founder of the Healing Kadi Foundation, stands with children in Kajo Keji, South Sudan, in 2014. While the country endures war and famine, Direct Relief is actively supporting medical partners in South Sudan administering critical medical care. (Photo by the Healing Kadi Foundation)

On March 15, Healing Kadi received a shipment from Direct Relief of medical aid valued at over $600,000. The shipment included wound care products, anti-infective agents, and other medications and medical supplies.

Direct Relief is also supporting Save the Children in South Sudan. Save the Children is playing a key role in responding to the country’s growing cholera epidemic, and Direct Relief is working to bolster their efforts by providing essential medical aid and items such as solar suitcases and medical tents for emergency triage care.

Northern Uganda

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 1.8 million refugees have fled South Sudan to neighboring countries, including northern Uganda. Direct Relief is stepping up to assist partners in the region.

Real Medicine Foundation (RMF), with support from Direct Relief, is caring for refugees at the Kiryandongo and Bidi Bidi Refugee camps. In collaboration with UNHCR, RMF is providing services to the displaced population in northern Uganda.

Since 2005, Real Medicine Foundation has provided humanitarian support to people living in disaster and poverty-stricken areas with a focus on giving medical, social and financial support. (George Papuashvili/Real Medicine Foundation photo)

Healing Kadi Foundation, now based in northern Uganda, is also receiving medical aid from Direct Relief.


Almost 700,000 people are displaced in Somalia as drought, conflict and disease challenge the survival of communities country-wide. The number of cholera cases, due to poor sanitation and contaminated water sources, continue to rise. Direct Relief is coordinating with Save the Children Somalia to send cholera kits that contain rehydration and water filtration items.

With a focus on vulnerable communities in Somaliland and Puntland, Save the Children Somalia is deploying medical teams to provided essential health services. Medical aid from Direct Relief is furthering these efforts.

Direct Relief is also working with Edna Adan Hospital and the National Borama Fistula Hospital in support of programs focusing on maternal and child health.

Based in Somaliland, the Edna Adan Hospital trains and dispatches midwives throughout the country. Director and founder of the hospital, Edna Adan, opened the center’s doors 15 years ago. Direct Relief has provided critical supplies, like midwife kits, that enabled the hospital’s mission for safe births during that time.

Edna Adan Hospital, located in Hargeisa, Somaliland, provides medical services focused on maternal and child health. With a goal of training midwives to serve the needs of women in the region, the nonprofit equips providers with medical aid from Direct Relief. (Direct Relief photo)

As the only hospital in Somaliland dedicated exclusively to fistula treatment, the National Borama Fistula Hospital performs over 400 surgeries per year. Dignity kits, with items like soap and sanitary pads, were shipped from Direct Relief to the hospital earlier this year. The kits are meant to help women feel more comfortable as they await obstetric fistula surgery.

This year, Direct Relief sent four shipments of medical aid exceeding $2 million and weighing more than 7,500 pounds to Somalia and Somaliland.


In early March, Save the Children Yemen received a donation of critical medicines and supplies from Direct Relief. Save the Children has reached nearly 1.1 million people in Yemen, delivering vital medical supplies among other resources to those who need them most. With a mission to treat children in a lasting and meaningful way, the organization is determined to secure the health and livelihood of future generations. Direct Relief is dedicated to supporting their efforts.

Though armed conflict has limited the volume of humanitarian aid entering the country, Direct Relief coordinated efforts with the United Nations to ensure critical supplies reached those in need. The March shipment, which included items for sanitation and infection control, reached Yemen on a World Food Program flight from Djibouti.

Requested medical supplies, like wound care and antibiotic products, arrived at Sada’s Governorate Alghemhori Hospital to assist providers treating patients. An additional shipment of medical aid, with items including personal care products and anti-infective agents, is scheduled to go out next month.

With over 7 million people in Yemen facing high levels of food insecurity coupled with political disruption, Direct Relief is committed to equipping medical teams responding on the ground.

Further Reading

Direct Relief Aims to Alleviate Medical Pressures from War, Famine in South Sudan

The Challenge of Bringing Humanitarian Aid into Places of Conflict

What a Difference a Person Can Make: A Conversation with Edna Adan

East Africa and Yemen Crisis May 17, 2017