Yemen Report: 860 children and pregnant women 'left to die without medical access'

7-year-old Tamer Abdu Haza’a with shrapnel injury caused by an explosion, is seen crying and screaming in the trauma center, a department of the “Mother and Child” Hospital, while the medical team is taking care of him. Over 10,700 war-wounded have been treated to date in structures managed or supported by MSF. Taiz Hoban, Yemen 2018.

Pregnant women who experience complications in childbirth and sick children are unable to reach medical care in Yemen in a safe and timely manner according to a report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

After four years of conflict, the situation in Yemen is continuing to deteriorate due to violence, armed groups, warring parties, airstrikes and political interference in aide operations.

As of March 2019, the report found that no public hospital in Taiz governorate was fully functioning, with three out of five hospitals in Taiz city centre remaining partially open with support from non-governmental organisations.

The hospitals do not provide the same level of services as before the conflict and are not easily accessible for those living across the frontline in Houban.

Hospitals in the area are hit by warring parties often, meaning safety and security is often compromised due to armed groups operating there.

As a result, medical complications during pregnancy have been become more fatal, with 70% of women arriving at the Taiz Houban hospital suffering from life-threatening complications.

MSF nurse Zainab, who works in Taiz Houban, described a recent patient:

I remember a woman who tried to give birth at home but could not due to complications. Her home was far from the MSF hospital and, when she arrived, she was suffering from uterine rupture and her baby was dead.

"The doctors hurried to perform an emergency operation for her as she was bleeding heavily. We expected the woman to die, but she lived."

Eftekar, a patient at Taiz Houban, from Al Wazeera, described getting stopped at checkpoints on the way to the hopsital whilst pregnant.: "If this war was not happening, I could go to any public hospital. But in this situation of war, with checkpoints and gunshots, we arrived at Taiz Houban in a state of panic.”

Effekar continued: “The war has had a terrible impact on the whole of Yemeni society – in terms of the blockade, increased commodity prices, insecurity and everything else that comes with conflict. People are very poor and cannot afford the cost of a single medicine.”

  • Since January, 2019:

  • The average weekly food bill for Yemeni families has risen by 96 percent
  • The price of diesel has risen 98%
  • The price of petrol has risen 106%
  • Yemeni rial’s purchasing power is 148 percent lower than in the pre-crisis period
  • Since 2014:

  • Yemen’s gross domestic product has fallen by 29 percent
  • In 2018:

  • 52% of Yemen’s population were living on less than €1.70 per day

The cost of healthcare varies in the region, but can be expensive. Considering 52% of Yemen’s population were living on less than €1.70 per day in 2018, the cost of an uncomplicated caesarean section is approximately €143, with the overall cost of admission to a private hospital for a few days could be €360-€560, rising as high as €1340.

MSF’s hospital manager in Taiz Houban says: “Previously people had a little bit of money, allowing them to seek care in local private clinics and afford transport. Now, as resources are tighter, they are delaying their arrival at the remaining medical facilities, including our one, which is free.

A nurse is seen carrying 7-year-old Tamer Abdu Haza’a in an ambulance. The kid was treated for shrapnel injury caused by an explosion at the trauma center, a department of the “Mother and Child” Hospital. Over 10,700 war-wounded have been treated to date in structures managed or supported by MSF. Taiz Hoban, Yemen 2018

"One example is a child [being cared for at a private clinic] in Sana’a, where the family paid for the operation but could not afford the aftercare. So they disconnected the child from the oxygen and intravenous fluids and travelled for eight hours to bring the child here to us.

"When the child arrived, it was at its last breath. They brought the child here thinking we could care for the child – which we could and would have done – but at that point it was too late. We did what we could, but sadly the child passed away. It is distressing that families have to go to these extremes.”

  • Between 2016 and 2018:

  • 860 deaths, 17 mothers, 242 children, 601 newborns
  • 227 of these were children and newborns who were dead on arrival
  • Number of children dead on arrival increased from 52 in 2016, to 72 in 2017, to 103 in 2018
  • 170 children and newborns who were alive on arriving at the facility but died within the following six hours, with children under one month old making up the majority of these deaths

MSF’s hospital manager at Taiz Houban says: “Last month in our emergency room we had 10 cases of children arriving dead. Of those 10 deaths, four were clearly the result of travelling for several days to get here.

"If they had lived closer to MSF’s hospital or had had the ability to pay for transport or medicines to treat a simple chest infection, it would not have resulted in such a serious outcome as the child dying.

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