Yemen: Health centre extends vital support to mothers and babies

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Ist June 2016

Thousands of malnourished mothers and babies in Yemen will benefit from essential health services thanks to funding from the British Red Cross and the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission.

Nutritious food will also be provided by the government ministry of health and Unicef.

This new grant will pay for a reproductive health unit to open at a health centre in Hajjah, one of Yemen’s poorest regions. The Red Cross has supported the centre since December 2015.

An obstetrician, midwife and two nurses have now started work. A therapeutic feeding centre for malnourished mothers and their children has also opened at the centre.

Shortages of staff and medical supplies had caused the health centre to close in March 2015. This meant that there was a severe lack of medical care for women who were pregnant or gave birth in Hajjah.

Both the patients and the health centre were victims of Yemen’s violent conflict, which worsened last year. Medical and health facilities across the country have been damaged or destroyed by the fighting and over 600 have closed.

Women and children hit worst

The World Health Organization has warned that Yemen’s health care system is “on the brink of collapse”. Two million children and pregnant or breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished. Tragically, nearly 220 of the health facilities that were forced to close used to provide treatment for acute malnutriton.

Michael Van Koesveld, British Red Cross Yemen country manager, said: “Hajjah has been particularly badly affected.

“It is now home to nearly 228,500 people who had to flee their homes in other parts of the country because of the fighting. Many of them are women and children.

“Pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants are especially vulnerable under these circumstances, and many of the centre’s patients are women and girls.”

Services expand

When the health centre reopened in December, it treated 776 outpatients a month. This rose to 1,482 by February.

With the expansion of services, we expect to treat an additional 1,500 patients monthly. The therapeutic feeding services target the most severely malnourished women and children. Supported by the government ministry of health and Unicef, the feeding programme is open eight hours a day.

The health centre also now offers small-scale surgical procedures such as intensive wound treatment, hernia operations and appendectomies. All services are provided free to families who had to leave their homes while local families pay a small fee.

Centre serves a large area

There are 42,448 people living in the area served by the health centre, as well as new arrivals who have fled their homes. Michael Van Koesveld added: “Basic health care is barely available in Hajjah so we expect more and more people to come to the centre.

“We thank the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission, and the people of Jersey, who donated £30,000 to fund the health centre for nine months.”