As part of Save the Children’s life-saving work in Yemen we are responding to the chronic lack of health workers and health facilities by providing child focused health and nutrition services in 19 sites across Amran. Dr. Amal forms part of one of these teams that support ten health centers in four districts in Amran.
Malnutrition levels remain critical in Yemen
Political instability, conflict, fuel shortages and high food prices have left almost 10 million people without enough to eat and 967,000 children’s lives at risk.
Malnutrition rates amongst children under-five are escalating beyond emergency levels – in some areas over a quarter of all children are malnourished. Children across Yemen are suffering from malnutrition are more likely to become ill with diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, measles and AIDS. Malnutrition compromises a child’s immunity so that an episode of illness tends to last longer or be more severe.
Chronic under-funding, mass displacement of people and a prioritization of urban over rural delivery of health services have left the most vulnerable people in remote regions without access to lifesaving care.
Currently in Yemen there is one health center per 30,000 people. After conducting a health facility assessment in Amran and Sa’ada governorates (two of the conflict-affected areas of Yemen), Save the Children found that 80% of facilities could not provide basic health services due to the lack of medical equipment, drugs, health staff, and furniture.
A Health Champion
Dr. Amal Abduallah Afre is 26 years old. She lives in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Her working day starts by making a 1.5 hour trip from her home in Sana’a, to the Save the Children office in Amran.
Dr. Amal is warm, open and driven. You can imagine her in her element at the health centers, commanding her space, administrating advice and barking orders. She is acutely aware of what she has compared to the little possessed by communities with whom she works and she is willing to give as much as she can to help.
“The first time I worked, I went to Gahel. I thought, yanni, this is a long distance, I was not used to the travelling but I adapt.
“Gahel is the closest place we travel from Amran – only thirty minutes. Haitha it is the furthest and is almost three hours from this place.
“The people in Sana’a, they don’t know what happens in Haitha. There are no services from the government, these people are forgotten people
“They have no education, no health services – it feels like the middle ages.”
“It takes three hours to get to Haitha and three hours to get back and we stay for four hours. While at the health centre we treat 300-400 cases.
“At first when we come to Haitha, the patients were difficult to deal with. They push each other; they want to take medicine now. The number of patients is increasing. The volunteers that work with us are really important. We need a lot of support for triage. 400 people, one health center, the people don’t know how to organize themselves. The health service is decreased if we can’t get triage under control.
“The most difficult thing I face is I can’t treat everyone in the perfect way. I only make one visit every two weeks. These people are waiting and it is the only service.
“One patient I see in Haitha, severe malnutrition – the child had a high grade fever and test positive for malaria. The mother had 5 or 6 children with her and she told me that 3 or 4 of her children had died before reaching 6 years old from diseases. I referred the mother and child to Amran and gave them transport to get to free medical care there.
“At the outpatient therapeutic feeding you see children with no cheeks at the beginning of the week and cheeks at the end!
“For sure people are grateful. They like to give you something, something small, like breakfast – lahoh (a flatbread with a slightly spongey texture).”
Supporting families and saving lives
Medical professionals like Dr. Amal, are vital to help children survive. Without them, no vaccine can be administered, no life-saving drugs prescribed and no woman can be given expert care during childbirth.
Our mobile health teams provide general consultations; treat communicable diseases; support women with antenatal and postnatal care and work towards a safe and healthy delivery for every mother and child (assistance, education, and provision of clean delivery kits).
We also run outpatient therapeutic programs and supplementary feeding, where mothers can bring malnourished children that have been identified by the mobile teams. Here the children receive specialist food and care to help them recover.
Mobile health teams
- Until July 2012, 23,075 medical consultations have been conducted by our teams in Amran
- 11,810 children have been screened for malnutrition by our mobile health teams
- We identified 434 with severe malnutrition and over 2,500 children suffering from moderate malnutrition.
- We have also screened 8044 pregnant and lactating women.
For more information see www.everyone.org