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MSF in Yemen, 2010
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Yemen is facing a number of emergencies: multiple conflicts, displacement and a massive flow of migrants. Many people are in need of healthcare, and in 2010 MSF expanded its activities in the country.
Conflict in northern Yemen
The sixth round of conflict in the northern governorate of Saada, between the Yemeni government and the al-Houthi armed group, was the most intense since the beginning of the war in 2004. A ceasefire was negotiated in February 2010, but sporadic clashes continued to occur throughout the rest of the year.
After having had to suspend activities for several months due to the intense fighting, MSF resumed work in Al Talh hospital, just outside the town of Saada, in March, and in Razah hospital, near the Saudi border, in April. In total, MSF staff carried out more than 32,000 consultations. During a measles outbreak between April and June, MSF and Ministry of Health staff treated more than 1,500 patients, 400 of whom were hospitalised, and carried out a vaccination campaign. In July, MSF opened a nutrition programme in Al-Jamouri hospital, also in the town of Saada, and treated 820 severely malnourished children. Staff also supported the teaching hospital in Saada.
MSF teams provided water, relief items and medical care to people displaced by the conflict but still living within Saada. Thousands more have moved to neighbouring governorates. In Amran, capital of Amran governorate, MSF supported three health structures. Staff provided emergency, postnatal and outpatient services at the Beit-el-Sultan health centre to help the centre cope with the increased number of people needing care. MSF also began assisting the emergency, surgery, maternity and reproductive health departments, as well as the nutrition programme at Al-Salam hospital in the town of Khameer. Staff carried out more than 10,000 emergency consultations, admitted some 900 people to hospital, performed 443 surgical interventions and assisted 313 births.
Around the small town of Al Mazraq, in the Hajjah governorate, there are three camps for displaced people. MSF provided general healthcare to more than 21,500 patients in the camps and ran a feeding programme, treating more than 3,300 malnourished children. Mental health teams carried out psycho-educational activities for more than 2,250 people and held 885 individual counselling sessions. Special support was given to patients in the nutrition programme, and for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
In August MSF began managing the hospital built by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Qatar Red Crescent Society, the only hospital in Al Mazraq. Since opening, staff have conducted around 3,370 emergency consultations, admitted more than 640 patients, and held antenatal consultations with more than 1,750 women.
Conflict was not confined to the north of the country. There were frequent clashes between the Yemeni army and separatist groups in the south. In July 2010, MSF teams began working in the public hospital in Radfan, Lahj governorate. More than 5,000 people received emergency treatment, over 390 surgeries were performed, and more than 300 people were admitted to hospital.
Reception of migrants
Despite being a conflict zone itself, thousands of refugees and migrants arrive in Yemen every year, escaping conflict, poverty and instability in the Horn of Africa.
MSF staff provided medical assistance to new arrivals on the shores of the Abyan and Shabwah governorates. Alerted by local people to the migrants’ arrival, teams brought first aid and psychological assistance, as well as food, water and kits with clothes and hygiene products.
The migrants then moved on to be registered and spend a few days at the Ahwar reception centre. MSF ran the health facility at the reception centre and provided assistance in the emergency department of Ahwar hospital. In April 2010 MSF handed over the project to the UN refugee agency UNHCR and its implementing partners, as the number of people arriving decreased and there was less need for MSF’s emergency assistance. Between September 2007 and March 2010, MSF provided medical to more than 25,000 new arrivals.
HIV care in the capital
The number of people living with HIV in Yemen is relatively low (prevalence is estimated at less than 0.2 per cent), but there is a very high level of stigma and discrimination against people who are HIV positive. MSF worked in Al Gumhuri Hospital in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, supporting the Ministry of Health’s counselling and testing services. Elsewhere in the city, MSF supported a health centre offering a prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme, and four counselling and testing services.
MSF has worked in Yemen since 2007.