Yemen: MSF Responds to the Consequences of Violence in the South

In tense and violence-plagued southern Yemen, MSF is continuously adapting its activities to ensure access to health care for wounded people and life-threatening cases.

Yemen 2010 © Agnes Montanari

An MSF staff member tends to a wounded Yemeni patient.

In southern Yemen, where political tensions and clashes continue, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is continuously adapting its activities to ensure access to health care for wounded people and life-threatening cases. The organization is involved in two emergency care facilities, organizes the transfer of injured people to Aden, and provides primary care and hospitalization for the population in parts of Aden, Abyan and Lahj governorates.

For more than a year, waves of violence in southern Yemen has caused many injuries and affected the ability of the health care system to cope with needs. In recent months, MSF has provided financial support, human resources and medical supplies to two emergency rooms in the region and a private hospital in Aden in order to offer people in the area access to free-of-charge health care for violence-related medical and surgical emergencies.

The volatile, ever-shifting context requires the organization to constantly redefine where and how to intervene, both in order to get closer to the patients in need and to ensure the safety of medical staff.

Improving Access to Surgery in Aden

Aden, the regional center, has been beset by political tensions. Demonstrations are frequent and clashes between demonstrators and security forces occasionally erupt. On January 13, at least five people were killed and dozens injured. MSF intervened to help provide care to injured people in a private hospital in the city, where 36 patients were received, including 13 patients with gunshot wounds who required surgery.

Referral of Wounded from Areas of Fighting

In the region of Abyan, east of Aden, recent weeks have seen a relative lull in the fighting between Yemeni security forces and armed Islamist groups. Medical needs remain high however, and numerous health facilities have either already been damaged or rendered inaccessible by the fighting.

MSF teams cannot access areas where the fighting is most intense, but they have set up a system to transfer the wounded from Jaar, about 70 kilometers [42 miles] northeast of Aden. More than 1,500 patients have been stabilized in a health clinic supported by MSF in Jaar, and 200 have been transferred by ambulance to Aden to access free surgical care and hospitalization. In all, MSF supported consultations and treatment for 3,225 patients.

Further east, the organization has made two donations of medicines and medical supplies to the emergency room of the hospital in Lawdar. This included drugs for the treatment of measles, because an outbreak has been reported in the region over the last few months.

Support to Emergency Rooms

In the city of Al-Daleh, northwest of Aden, MSF has been providing financial support, human resources, medicines and medical equipment to the emergency room of the district hospital. Since August, more than 4,400 patients have received emergency care and 120 have been transferred to Aden.

In Al-Hosn town, east of Aden, MSF has been working since May 2011 in response to the deterioration of the public health system in the governorate. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health office, an MSF team is supporting a primary health unit in the town that provides health care for the both local population and internally displaced persons.

MSF is also working in Lahj governorate, east of Abyan, where the population is affected by regular fighting between different armed groups. Since July 2010, an MSF team has been providing medical care in Radfan district public hospital, which serves as a referent medical structure for four districts of around 160,000 people. MSF is supporting the emergency room, surgery, and inpatient wards, as well as the medical lab and pharmacy.

Finally, MSF is supporting the activities of three outpatient clinics in the city of Aden—and plans to provide support for a fourth—to improve access to primary care for the resident population and for the tens of thousands of people displaced by conflict. More than 6,000 people have benefited from these services since last July. In addition, teams are now working to open an emergency surgical care facility fully managed by MSF in the city and designed primarily to receive violence and trauma related cases.

MSF has been working in Yemen since 1994 and continuously since 2007. Today, the organization conducts medical and surgical activities in the governorates of Amran and Hajjah in the north of the country, as well as in Lahj, in the South.

In late September 2011, MSF had to suspend its activities in the governorate of Saada, following the introduction of new working conditions by the de facto authorities in the region. Today, more than 300 national and international MSF employees are mobilized in the country, and more than 100 Yemeni staff of the Ministry of Health are involved in the implementation of activities.

MSF is a private humanitarian international organization providing emergency medical aid in nearly 65 countries worldwide. For its activities in Yemen, MSF does not accept funding from any government and chooses to rely solely on private donations.