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Yemen hospitals run out of medicine for dangerously malnourished children

Tuesday, 27 September 2016 - 4:34pm

Children going untreated in Yemen hospitals unless parents supply own medicine

Desperate parents are being asked to provide their own medicines to treat their malnourished babies and children, as Yemen’s hospitals run out of supplies and the health system has collapsed.

But Yemeni families told Save the Children staff they are so poor they can barely afford fuel and transport costs to get to hospitals. Even when families are able to borrow cash to get to hospital, they cannot then afford essential medicines once they get there.

Dr Abdullah Thabit who runs the Malnutrition Section of Al Sabeen mother and child hospital in the capital Sana’a said: “On Saturday two twins died because of a lack of medicine. The situation here is very critical, we receive more than three cases of malnourished children every day from different governorates.

“There are not enough rooms, no medicine and a lack of doctors. The hospital cannot provide salaries to bring more doctors. The salary is not enough because the cost of currency is going up and food is expensive.

“Meanwhile, we ask the patients to buy medicine themselves from outside the hospital. Some cannot afford the medicines so they leave and they don’t come back and we don’t know what will happen next, especially to their children.”

The hospital’s manager Dr Hilal AlBahri said: “Children are dying and we are out of medicine. The health system has already collapsed.”

Two-year-old Amal was suffering Kwashikor - a severe form of malnutrition caused by a lack of protein and nutrients that traps fluid in body tissues. Her mother said: “Twenty days ago she got acute diarrhoea, we went immediately to the closest health centre in our village. But doctors asked us to go to the capital city Sana’a because they don’t have medicine. When we arrived in Sana’a, we came to this hospital and they said she needs medicine. I was forced to sell my jewellery to afford it.”

Other parents have sold their possessions and taken out loans. Yemeni families told Save the Children staff they have lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the war so cannot afford food and medicine. Many are eating just one meal a day.

Edward Santiago, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, said: “The horrifying images of starving-to-death children coming out of Yemen are reminiscent of what we saw in Ethiopia 30 years ago. The images galvanized global action back then yet when it comes to Yemen’s children today, the world seems to be looking the other way.”

Alongside malnutrition and related illness, many children have died as a direct impact of the conflict and there have been multiple other credible allegations of grave violations of children’s rights by all fighting forces. At least 1,188 children have been killed and over 1,796 wounded by airstrikes and ground fighting since the start of the conflict. Dozens of schools and hospitals have been attacked, and the military recruitment and use of children, including in front-line roles, is widespread. So far no one has been held to account for these actions.

Save the Children therefore welcomes the UK government’s support at the UN Human Rights Council which is currently in session in Geneva for a draft resolution calling for a UN mission to be dispatched to Yemen to report on human rights abuses there. The UK must not waver in its support for international independent investigations and should use its influence to ensure that they take place without delay.


For further information or to request an interview please contact Alice Klein on a.klein@savethechildren.org.uk | 02037631069 | 07812357047

Notes to editors:
Photos and film, gathered in al-Sabeen Mother and Child Hospital in Sana’a, Yemen, on Sunday September 25th 2016, are available at: http://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=39668&k=2f793c46e0