International Activity Report 2008
MSF in Yemen, 2008
Field Staff: 352
Reason for Intervention:
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Yemen is considered a haven for thousands of people fleeing from war and poverty in the Horn of Africa, but is affected by its own internal tensions. Since June 2004, a conflict in the governorate of Saada (northwest region of Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia) is believed to have killed more than 9,000 and injured about 20,000 people. A local group called the Al Houthis opposes government troops. Five occurrences of high-intensity fighting have erupted since 2004. The ‘Fifth War’ took place recently, from May to July 2008. Meanwhile, the number of refugees coming from Somalia and Ethiopia, risking their lives crossing the Gulf of Aden, continued to increase in 2008.
Healthcare for people affected by the ‘Fifth War’
In July 2007, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a project in Saada governorate to provide healthcare to people affected by the Yemeni conflict, develop a capacity to treat war-wounded, and respond to the needs of displaced people during periods of fighting.
When the ‘Fifth War’ broke out in 2008, MSF was running hospital and outreach activities in Haydan and in Razeh; and in Al Tahl, hospital and mobile primary health consultations for the nearby village of Dahyan. Although the security conditions during the war forced all expatriate teams to evacuate Saada governorate, some activities were maintained thanks to the Yemeni staff. International staff was able to return to Saada governorate in September 2008. At the end of the year, MSF still supported Al Tahl and Razeh hospitals, as well as consultation activities in Dahyan, and operated a referral system to MSF secondary care facilities.
In 2008, around 3,000 consultations were carried out in MSF’s hospitals or outreach projects; about 15,000 patients were seen in emergency rooms; more than 1,500 patients were admitted to hospital; and 500 surgical operations were carried out. Around 1,000 children were admitted for severe malnutrition, nearly 3,000 antenatal consultations were provided as well as 700 deliveries.
Assisting refugees from the Horn of Africa
In the south of the Yemen – in the Abyan and Shabwah governorates – MSF has been providing support to migrants coming from the Horn of Africa across the Gulf of Aden since September 2007. In 2008, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 50,000 people fleeing from war, persecution and hunger in Somalia and Ethiopia made the perilous journey in smugglers’ boats, hoping to reach Yemen. Almost 950 died in the attempt.
MSF provides medical, psychosocial and humanitarian assistance to the refugees when they arrive. A mobile team attends to those in most urgent need on the shore before they are transferred with other new arrivals to a reception center in the city of Ahwar. Refugees stay here for a few days to be registered. MSF has set up a health center where medical assistance is available to everyone and vulnerable groups, inlcuding women and children, are especially encouraged to attend consultation and undergo screenings and vaccination. In 2008, the MSF team in Ahwar helped almost 10,000 people.