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Yemen: MSF Faces Daily Challenges in North
October 8, 2009
Yemen 2009 © Arnaud Drouart / MSF
In the north of Yemen intense fighting has been ongoing for the past eight weeks. Since September 2007, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has worked in Saada governorate in northern Yemen. MSF staff currently provide medical care to the population affected by the 'Sixth War', the most recent of a series of violent outbreaks that began in 2004 between government forces and members of the opposition group Al Houthi. Andrés Romero, MSF’s head of mission in Sana'a, describes the evolution of MSF’s activities here
How have MSF’s activities evolved in northern Yemen?
MSF supports two ministry of health hospitals, in Shara’a, Razeh district, and in Al Talh, Saher district. In both hospitals, our teams provide free medical services carrying out primary healthcare and emergency consultations, hospitalizations, and gyneco-obstetrical activities. In Al-Talh, surgery is also performed for emergency cases. In surrounding towns around Razeh and Al-Talh, MSF supports ministry of health structures by providing consultations and hospital referrals.
How would you describe the primary needs of the people in Saada governorate today?
The continuous fighting has forced large amounts of people to flee repeatedly inside the governorate or towards neighboring governorates. It has been difficult to obtain precise figures on the overall number of displaced as rescue teams and humanitarian actors have difficulties reaching all areas of the governorate. However, according to United Nations figures, around 60,000 displaced people have so far been registered in Saada, Amran, and Hajja governorates.
In addition, families are still on the move, travelling from one location to another in fear for their safety. For example, in the north of the governorate some families were displaced from Dahyan towards Jesnem, then from Jesmen towards Baqim, and then from Baqim towards Mandabah. But even in Mandabah, finding a safe place was extremely difficult as clashes erupted there and families were scattered once again.
How has MSF continued its activities in such difficult security conditions?
It has been a daily challenge considering that we faced numerous problems, namely insecurity and lack of communication. All land and wireless telephones have been unreliable. Roads linking Saada governorate with the rest of the country have been blocked. MSF national staff are often working in hospitals without contact with their families.