Yemen Close to ‘Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Continue

07 September, 2015

Aid agencies are warning of a possible humanitarian disaster in Yemen, including severe malnutrition.

The agencies say up to 500,000 children lack food or nutrients in their diet. Yemeni hospitals are running low on simple medicines, they say.

Houthi rebels seized control of much of the country earlier this year. But the conflict between the Houthis and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia could make the situation worse.

A boy sits next to a car destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's northwestern province of Amran, Aug. 29, 2015. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
A boy sits next to a car destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's northwestern province of Amran, Aug. 29, 2015. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Al-Sabeen Hospital cares for children and pregnant women in Yemen. The hospital stands in the middle of bombed-out buildings in the center of the capital, Sana'a. But the quality of medical services could suffer soon.

The aid agency Save the Children provides support to the hospital. Save The Children spokesperson Mark Kaye recently made a visit to Sana'a. He spoke to VOA via Skype from Jordan.

"Before the crisis it had a catchment population of about 300,000; but since the crisis that number has risen to almost three million, with the entire (population) reliant on it for specialist care."

Hospital officials say some medicines, treatments and other supplies are no longer available at the medical center. It has no more intravenous fluids, anesthetics and Valium. They also say the Al-Sabeen hospital cannot test blood for blood transfusions.

In a nearby medical clinic, doctors are seeing a sharp rise in the numbers of malnourished children. More than half a million people are expected to suffer severe malnutrition in 2015.

Doctor Najibah Ali Al-Ghasal says the situation is serious.

"We are facing famine with our children," she says. "We can't...sit by and wait. We call on the United Nations to look at the children who are innocent and shouldn't be experiencing malnutrition like this, their fear, and the anxiety we are facing."

Aid agencies blame the shortages on the blockade enforced by Saudi Arabia and the bombing of the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida. Up to 90 percent of hospital supplies pass through the port.

Mark Kaye says the blockade needs to be lifted.

"So what we really need to see is an unhindered access for these absolutely critical goods. Otherwise, more children and pregnant women will pay the price."

Aid agencies warn that across Yemen, about 15-million people do not have a doctor or health care provider. The agencies say that issue will likely prove the deadliest effect of the conflict.

I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Correspondent Henry Ridgwell reported this story. George Grow adapted it for Learning English.


Words in This Story

catchment – n. the action of including or catching everything, especially water

reliant – adj. needing someone or something for support

anesthetics – n. a drug that causes the temporary loss of sensation

famine – n. food shortages

anxiety – n. a feeling of worry or nervousness

unhindered – adj. not blocked; open

access – n. a way of getting near or use of someone or something

absolutely – adj. surely

critical - adj. very important