Yemen: Stories from Khamer

Malak Shaher/MSF
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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs Al-Salam Hospital in the town of Khamer, in Yemen's Amran governorate, north of the capital city Sana’a. This facility is one of only two hospitals in the entire governorate and normally receives patients from remote areas and valleys in the north of Amran. However, fuel shortages precipitated by the ongoing conflict in Yemen's have made it very difficult for people to travel and to reach the hospital as soon as they need to, if they're able to come at all. The fuel shortage is also having an impact on the availability of clean drinking water.

Khamer has also recently seen an influx of internally displaced people (IDPs), particularly those fleeing airstrikes in Sa’ada. Some houses host numerous IDP families, while other IDPs find refuge in schools. More than 1,000 IDP families have already arrived in Khamer.

MSF is extending its support in Khamer beyond the hospital by providing mobile clinics for IDPs, as well as clean water and non-food items such as hygiene kits and cooking sets.

Abdulla Husain Sha’ra of Sa’ada

"About a month ago I left Sa’ada with my family. The airstrikes hit places that were just some 20 or 30 meters from our house. When we left Sa’ada we were only carrying our clothes and some important items. We came here with no furniture. Some good people donated mattresses and blankets for us.

Khamer is a peaceful town, but we live in difficult conditions. We are five families living in the same house. Each family lives in one room. The water is very expensive, as the water trucks do not move due to the fuel shortage.

I used to earn my living by working on a motorbike, but with no fuel I could not move my source of income from Sa’ada to Khamer. I want to go back home to my place in Sa’ada but I cannot with the airstrikes still ongoing and as I am responsible for keeping my family in a safe place."

Sameer Yahya of Sa’ada

"My brother was on a motorbike when an airstrike hit the market in Sa’ada. He was injured by shrapnel but he survived. After heavy airstrikes that were just a few meters from my house, I decided to leave Sa’ada to save my family. Now I have been in Khamer for almost one month.

I used to register IDPs in Sa’ada in 2008. Now I am an IDP myself here in Khamer. The life of an IDP is not easy, especially when the place you escape to does not have basic facilities like water and sanitation."

Ameera Yahya, Midwife Supervisor

"We have been receiving mostly women from Khamer town or places nearby. The most complicated pregnancies we used to receive [were] from faraway districts where women do not enjoy good health due to poor nutrition. We do not see many of them nowadays, as they cannot afford the high prices of transportation.

"These women and their families are the poorest in the area. Above all, they do not have other health facilities around. Many women are now delivering at home with unskilled attendants, which puts them in danger if they have complications or if they need a C-Section. Some of those who can make it to the hospital come very late and lose their babies."

Salem Saleh, MSF Pharmacist

"Khamer does not have a large supply of clean water. There are only two wells and the water of those two wells is not for drinking. So people have to buy water from trucks [that] bring clean water to Khamer. Now, with the fuel shortage, the water trucks can only provide the town with water for very expensive prices. The price for a water truck used to be 4,000 Yemeni rial ($22), and now it’s double that and sometimes triple.

Due to the fuel shortage, the prices of food have increased as well. We are living through a crisis and we do not know when it will end."

Najeeba Ali Humaid

Najeeba is a one-year-old girl suffering from acute malnutrition. Her mother could not afford the high price for transportation from her home in Osman Valley to Al-Salam Hospital in Khamer. Najeeba’s father was not home, and the baby was extremely sick, so she went to the hospital in Khamer by foot, carrying Najeeba for six hours.

“Unfortunately the child suffered from acute malnutrition; she came to the hospital very late with acute gastro-enteritis which turned into a multi-organ failure, by the time she arrived at hospital," says MSF Medical Activities Manager Dr. Emmanuel Berbain. "But she’s getting better."

Ali Alian, dressing room staff, Al-Salam Hospital

"Only those who live in Khamer or in the nearby districts can make it to the hospital. Others who come from faraway places have to pay lots of money, as the transportation fares have increased due to the fuel shortage. Some IDPs come to Khamer by foot and others just don’t come as they cannot afford the fares."

Learn More about MSF's Work in Yemen

MSF is responding to the needs of civilians affected by violence and currently has 31 international and 534 Yemeni MSF staff on the ground. Since March 19, more than 1,266 war-wounded patients have been treated by MSF. It remains extremely difficult to move within the country to evaluate needs and provide assistance, due to the fighting and the airstrikes. Around 100 tons of medical supplies have been sent to Yemen by MSF so far.

Malak Shaher/MSF