Yemen’s healthcare in crisis: a doctor speaks out

Report
from British Red Cross
Published on 10 Aug 2018 View Original

“Here our job is human. I can’t leave it, I can’t stop.”

Dr Anisa, a doctor with British Red Cross partner the Yemen Red Crescent, speaks from a battered clinic in Sana’a, Yemen.

Once, she was a hospital specialist. The clinic was a thriving health centre for mothers and babies.

But now, Yemen is caught up in deadly conflict. Dr Anisa is now a GP working in one of the only clinics where people can get free healthcare. Patients travel for hours to see her every day.

Like many doctors in Yemen, she hasn’t been paid in two years.

But Dr Anisa keeps going: “The conflict has affected everyone, not just us. I can’t do anything else, this is my job.”

Healthcare is a victim of Yemen’s conflict

Dr Anisa and her clinic are among thousands of medical staff and facilities affected by the conflict.

More than 160 health centres and hospitals have been attacked since 2015. A lack of fuel and supplies has forced a hundred more to close.

This means that over half of Yemen’s health facilities have been destroyed or damaged.

At the same time, less than a third of the medicines that people need are available in the country.

Terrible shortages of food and clean water put people at risk of disease. Yemen only recently made it through one of the world’s worst cholera epidemics.

Unfortunately, cases are increasing again as the disease is being spread by dirty water after homes, treatment plants and sewers were hit.

And after yesterday’s attack on a bus, which killed at least 51 people, mostly children, and injured 79, doctors, hospitals and medicines are needed more than ever.

Red Cross and Red Crescent support hospitals in crisis

The Red Cross and Red Crescent have supported Yemen’s battered healthcare system since the conflict started.

After the strike on the bus, dozens of badly injured children were treated at a local hospital supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC sent surgical supplies to another hospital that was treating the wounded. Medical supplies also reached a health centre that was taking care of the less serious casualties from the attack.

And for two years, the Red Cross has supported one of the only clinics for mothers-to-be in the north of the country. Thousands of women have been helped to give birth safely as a result.

Poverty, hunger and dirty water take their toll

Back in her clinic, Dr Anisa cares for the people who are victims of the conflict’s everyday tragedies.

The Yemen Red Crescent provided health services here for decades. “I receive all kinds of patients, young, old, people with chronic diseases like diabetes to dealing with epidemics such as cholera,” Dr Anisa said.

“I have been working here for 15 years; people come here because they trust me.

“Most of our patients are very poor. They can’t buy medicine. They can’t go to private hospitals or clinics.

“Sometimes I have patients that I prescribe medication, but when they come back for a check-up the next month they haven’t been able to buy it so their condition has often deteriorated.”

“Things are difficult for me, even as a doctor”

The system relies on people like Dr Anisa who keep going to work despite the extreme challenges.

“I am just one of the Yemeni people affected by this conflict. Things are very difficult even for me, even as a doctor, not one of the poorer people.”

Dr Anisa had some savings from her years as a specialist but in the last two years, she has spent what she had saved to help her family get by.

Now she doesn’t know how they will survive. Yet every day she treats dozens of patients at the clinic.

“Others maybe go and find other work,” she said. “But when I think about that, I think: what will happen when people come here and don’t find me?

“In life we want many things – for ourselves, for our children – but we have to do what we can. The conflict has affected everyone, not just us. I can’t do anything else, this is my job.”

“What else can I do? This is humanity.”