October 20, 2009

Doctors Without Borders calls for respect of health care facilities

Sanaa/Paris, October 20, 2009 — Two months into the war in Northern Yemen, one of the last functioning hospitals in the Saada governorate was directly hit by rocket fire last week and forced to close. It is urgent that a hospital be set up in a safe area allowing patients to access health care, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Tuesday. MSF is ready to restart medical activities in the governorate as soon as possible.

The night between Thursday, October 15 and Friday October 16, Razeh hospital, in the Saada governorate, was hit by rocket fire. Staff and patients were forced to evacuate the premises the following day despite the many wounded in need of continued medical attention. Just the day before, 10 war-wounded patients, including six children and two women, had been hospitalized in the facility.

MSF reiterates its call to warring parties to guarantee respect for medical facilities and to facilitate patients’ access to care.

MSF has been working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in two hospitals in Al Talh and Razeh, in the Saada governorate, since late 2007, providing medical and surgical care free of charge. Despite difficulties, activities had continued uninterrupted until now, thanks to an agreement between both parties to the conflict. But medical work is no longer possible given that even the minimum security conditions are no longer met.

Since fighting broke out and work stopped in Al Talh, on September 27, and Razeh, on October 16, MSF and Yemeni Ministry of Health’s medical teams have carried out some 2,000 emergency consultations and performed 195 surgical interventions (70 percent involving war wounds), 330 hospitalizations, and over 130 deliveries. These were the last two secondary healthcare facilities still operating in the governorate, outside the town of Saada, making their suspension of care of particular concern.

“After more than two months of non-stop intensive fighting, the medical and surgical needs in the Saada region are running high, but most of the population can no longer reach any medical facilities,” said Dr. Isabelle Defourny, program manager for MSF operations in Yemen. “There is an urgent need to set up a hospital in an area where safety conditions will allow patients to safely access medical care.”

Such safety conditions currently exist in Mandabah (district of Baqim), located to the north of the governorate, where a number of people have gathered fleeing the fighting. MSF teams have been conducting assessments in this area since late August, and consider it a priority to set up a hospital there right away.

Our medical and surgical teams are ready to provide assistance. MSF is waiting for the authorization of the authorities to begin providing secondary health care in Mandabah as soon as possible.

The MSF teams have carried out 30,000 consultations between January and July 2009, 8,000 of which were emergencies, and 1,450 hospitalizations. MSF has also performed 720 surgical interventions, including some 100 on the war-wounded.

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