Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Mobile Health Clinics in Yemen
championing emergency health assistance
Driving through Yemen’s desert under a blazing sun, Dr. Muhammad thinks about whether he’s brought all the right supplies to treat his patients: antibiotics, anti-diarrheals, medicine for high blood pressure.
He’s going where other groups can’t reach: a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In a country crushed by civil war and poverty, “Health is a dire need,” says Dr. Muhammad.
The people in the camps have next to nothing. “Food is not available all the time,” says Amal Mohammed, who coordinates health services at the camps. “There are a lot of infectious diseases and bad hygiene at IDP sites. They are living in a desert.”
With support from Week of Compassion, global partner IMA World Health has established a mobile health clinic project in Yemen ...
supporting local capacity-strengthening, helping to train and equip health care workers so that they can provide free medical care to the community. Sausan Abdullah, a nurse who is an IDP herself, has worked in the camps for five years, handling infections, vaccinations and first aid. With as many as 10 million people suffering from malnutrition in Yemen, a crucial part of her work is weighing and assessing children. “Yemen suffers. There’s not enough food,” she says. “A lot of children die of hunger.”
Amer is nearly a year old, but has no interest in games or toys like other children his age, and measures several pounds and inches below the standard for his age. Amer’s father has no stable income and can barely provide his family with essential food in their rural village. He works hard as a farmer, but it’s never enough. Amer’s mother said,“The lack of healthy food made me unable to breastfeed my baby regularly like other mothers and makes the baby susceptible to many illnesses. We cannot afford food prices.”
To reduce the rate of malnutrition among children 5 and younger and to address nutrition for pregnant and lactating women, IMA works with local partners to provide primary health services at targeted health centers throughout Yemen.
Through this work, Amer was screened and admitted to the Al-Saqet health facility. He was given Plumpy’Nut, a therapeutic food source. Over time, he fully recovered. Amer’s mother was also advised about the importance of healthy food and hygiene practices, as well as the diversity of meals.
“We were not sure that we could help our child to recover until we heard about Al-Saqet health facility,” Amer’s mother said.
“The situation was very bad at the beginning. They only provided first aid, and then referred people to the hospital far away,” says Amal. “There were only one or two health workers for a population of hundreds.” This project through IMA World Health means health units have been reactivated and more medical staff are on the teams serving the camps, enabling more than a thousand people to be treated every month.
Addressing gender equality around health care is also critical. Because many women must be accompanied by a male relative, they may not always be able to travel to medical centers. “It’s more difficult for women to access health care,” says Amal. “The distance is so far – sometimes twenty miles – and they need someone to go with them. Men can easily go to the hospital.” Bringing health services closer to home saves women from suffering in silence.
Sausan, the nurse, is grateful for this project that supports health and combats malnutrition. “Yemen needs a lot of help,” she says. “When I know that a person is worrying about a family member suffering from a disease, and then he finds someone who provides him with primary health services for free, I feel overwhelmingly happy,” says Amal, the health service coordinator. “It’s as if a mountain had been removed from his back.”
Health care workers like Sausan Abdullah and Dr. Muhammad draw strength from every win. Muhammad recalls a boy with a palm tree thistle in his foot. After more than a week, it was infected. When Dr. Muhammad removed it, “His parents were thankful. They’d tried going to other health places. To take away a child's pain, it's a wonderful feeling."
Stories & photos courtesy IMA World Health.
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