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Health-care in Yemen is dealt ‘a huge blow’

12 April 2019


A technician prepares a prosthetic limb at a rehabilitation centre in Sana’a

A technician prepares a prosthetic limb at a rehabilitation centre in Sana’a

THE health-care system in war-torn Yemen has been dealt “a huge blow” by the suspension of admissions to a hospital in Aden run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), after the abduction and murder of a patient.

MSF is one of the few aid agencies still working in Yemen, which is in its fifth year of civil war between Houthi rebels and Saudi led coalition forces. The United Nations said last month that eight children a day were being killed or injured in Yemen, despite a peace deal signed by the two sides late last year in Stockholm (News, December 2018).

A statement released by MSF said that a group of armed men entered the hospital and abducted a patient awaiting surgery last week. The man was later found dead in the street.

Caroline Seguin from MSF said that the charity had no choice but to stop taking in new patients, though it would continue to treat those who remain inside the hospital.

“We are extremely worried by the deteriorating situation inside Aden and its consequences for our medical activities, as incidents like these endanger the lives of both patients and staff.”

The Archdeacon in the Gulf, the Ven. Dr Bill Schwartz, described the suspension of admissions as a “huge blow to the healthcare system” in Yemen.

The Anglican church Christ Church, Aden, runs the Ras Morbat clinic in its compound, and has “good partnerships” with the MSF, sometimes treating patients sent over by the charity.

Ras Morbat, established in 1996 to provide primary health-care and eye-care to the poorest people in the community, and staffed entirely by Yemeni Muslims, has continued to operate during the conflict, although it was placed under armed guard in 2015. Staff have treated people injured in the fighting, in addition to their usual patients.

They also treat patients one day each week from a UNHCR camp that houses more than 2000 Somali refugees who don’t qualify for Yemeni healthcare, and they treat patients from the Yemeni Society for the Blind.

Dr Schwartz said: “Our patients are from the part of society that nobody pays attention to.”

The UN has said that ten million Yemenis are just “one step away from famine” , and another ten million are food insecure. The humanitarian situation has worsened as conflict around the main port of Hodeidah has led to disruption to food and aid deliveries.

On Sunday, an air strike on rebel-held city of Sana’a killed 14 children, most of them girls under the age of nine who were in a nearby school.

The United States Congress has passed a resolution to end US involvement in Yemen. It provides logistical support to the coalition, besides allowing arms sales. The resolution, however, needs to be signed off by President Trump, and he has threatened to veto it.

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