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Yemen: “Our teams are working around the clock"
Airstrikes, landmines, a health system on the brink of collapse: people in Yemen are living through a grueling civil war. Alex Dunne shares his experience after 12 months in our team there…
Over the past year I’ve been working in Yemen, as a Humanitarian Affairs Officer for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
I have seen first-hand the devastating effect the conflict has had on some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
Difficult and dangerous
A difficult and dangerous place to operate in, MSF significantly increased our operations in Yemen since 2015, supporting some 20 health facilities across 11 governorates in Yemen today.
Since then – and in spite of airstrikes, blockages and bombs – MSF teams have performed over 81,000 surgeries, delivered some 70,000 babies and cared for more than 120,000 suspected cholera cases.
"I could hear in her voice just how relieved she was that she and her son were healthy and safe after the operation."
For Yemenis living through this protracted crisis, getting hold of the essentials of daily life is a constant struggle. This is especially true of medical care, as Yemen’s public health system is a long way from meeting the needs of the country’s 28 million people.
What does a Humanitarian Affairs Officer do?
Last month, my team and I authored the report Complicated Delivery: The Yemeni Mothers and Children Dying without Medical Care.
We analysed our medical data and interviewed both MSF medical staff and mothers who delivered their babies in our health facilities. The result was a better understanding of the difficulties in reaching care that patients are facing.
Frontlines. Safety. Financial obstacles – not just in paying for medical care, but also in paying for transport to a hospital or clinic.
These are the key factors having a devastating effect on women and children as mothers seek to give birth to their babies safely.
In our Mother and Child Hospital in Taiz Houban, I was lucky enough to talk with some of our patients who had recently given birth.
One mother who sticks in my mind had just delivered a baby boy. She had survived some significant complications in her pregnancy that required our teams to perform a surgical intervention. She was young and shy, but in talking to her I could hear in her voice just how relieved she was that she and her son were healthy and safe after the operation.
"Whether it is delivering babies, removing bullets or treating cholera, our teams are working around the clock to provide the life-saving emergency care so desperately needed in Yemen today."
She told me how, before the war, accessing a local hospital was a simpler process. But now, with a public healthcare system that is near collapse, the MSF hospital was the only place she could get medical care, which, it turned out, had been life-saving.
Every day I see the incredible impact our medical work has on patients right across Yemen. I witness how MSF facilities are often the last remaining option for so many people trapped in the trauma of this war.
Whether it is delivering babies, removing bullets or treating cholera, our teams are working around the clock to provide the life-saving emergency care so desperately needed in Yemen today.
I think about that, and then I reflect that without our donors, we know none of this work would be possible.
If you’re reading this, and you’ve ever donated to MSF, thank you.