Yemen looks ahead to reconstruction
Despite the ongoing war ravaging their nation, Yemeni health professionals have continued to provide whatever care they can amid dire conditions.
According to the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO), only 45 percent of the country’s health facilities remain fully functional and accessible, while at least 274 have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict. Drastic budget cuts have left health facilities struggling to cover operational costs and health care worker salaries since September 2016.
Despite these nearly impossible conditions, the more than 1,200 employees at Al-Thawra Hospital in Al-Hudaydah serve as an example of the country’s medical professionals, doing everything they can to continue providing services. Al-Thawra Hospital provides care to 1,500 people every day, a fivefold increase over 2012 owing to an influx of people displaced by conflict.
Though most patients can’t afford the minimal fees for hospital services, the hospital has refused to turn away patients, according to WHO.
Yemen also launched a WHO-supported polio vaccination campaign in February 2017, with 40,000 health workers aiming to immunize more than 5 million children under age 5.
“The threat of [polio] virus importation is serious, and this campaign aims to curb any possible return of the virus to Yemen,” said Nevio Zagaria, WHO’s representative in Yemen.
Yemen was declared polio-free in 2009, but experts say conflict zones are particularly exposed because of disruption to their health systems. Syria and Iraq saw polio outbreaks a few years ago, said Sona Bari, WHO’s spokesman on polio eradication.
The vaccination teams will also target high-risk groups, including families uprooted from their homes by fighting and refugees who have fled to Yemen from conflicts in Africa. In Yemen, where nearly two years of civil war have pitted Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led Arab coalition, much of the population is displaced.
Given these circumstances, many medical professionals fear they will soon run out of resources. Though WHO provides fuel and medicines for emergency interventions, “with no funds for operational costs, we never know if we will still be open one month from now,” said Khaled Suhail, director of Al-Thawra Hospital.
Since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, health facilities across Yemen have reported more than 7,600 deaths and close to 42,000 people injured, according to WHO. Malnutrition rates are also rising: Almost 4.5 million people in Yemen, including 2 million children, require services to treat or prevent malnutrition, a 150 percent increase since late 2014.
“With more than 14.8 million people lacking access to basic health care, the current lack of funds means the situation will get much worse,” Zagaria said.
Responding to the crisis, the U.N. agency has established 15 therapeutic feeding centers in seven governorates and plans to open 25 more as the number of malnourished children increases across the country.
Other Arab countries, too, have come to Yemen’s aid. In February 2017, Saudi Arabia earmarked $10 billion for the reconstruction of liberated provinces. Speaking in the government’s temporary southern capital of Aden, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi called on his government to use the donations for power, water, roads, health and education in retaken areas.
Before and during the current crisis in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Red Crescent provided more than $775 million in development aid, including purchases of food, bedding and medical equipment for Mukalla’s University Hospital of Gynecology, Childbirth and Cardiac Catheterization.
“The UAE considers provision of aid as a humane duty and within the framework of a number of key values and principles on which the UAE’s vision was based,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, noted in December 2016.
Sources: VOA, U.N. News Centre, Arab News