SANA’A, July 20 — Violence increased last week in Taiz, Arhab, Abyan, and Sana’a due to continuing political unrest. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Yemen, Dr. Ghulam Popal, confirmed to the Yemen Times that all political parties involved in the recent events are cooperating regardless of their roles in the conflicts.
“Everything in Yemen is political, but health services are more neutral and impartial. We appreciate the assistance from all parties and the field hospitals,” said Popal.
As different parties provide different information about any individual incident, the WHO has three step procedure in place to check the neutrality of any information supplied to them.
First, when an incident occurs an operation team from both the Ministry of Health and the WHO call all the hospitals to keep posted on their needs and the number of killed and injured. Second they glean information from field hospitals at the protest areas. Finally, in cases of conflicting information from hospitals and field hospitals, the representative and the health cluster coordinator go and check the situation for themselves.
In February, when the anti-government protests started, protesters complained that the government hospital were not accepting injured protesters, or if accepted that they were not treated well. Dr. Popal told the Yemen Times that this situation has now changed, and that the Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a is treating injured protesters.
The WHO also works with internally displaced persons (IDPs) from both south and north Yemen. According to the WHO, southern governorates in Yemen are facing three emergency humanitarian situations simultaneously. There is an influx of IDPs within Abyan, with many others heading towards Aden and Lahj. There is also a serious outbreak of diarrheal diseases and cholera in Abyan, and finally there are incoming casualties from the conflict zones in Aden.
If the current unstable situation continues, Dr. Popal fears that IDPs will be more vulnerable to food poisoning over the up-coming Ramadan period. People usually eat a lot during the night during Ramadan, and given the shortage of power for refrigeration or cooling, food poisoning is likely to be a problem as food spoils during the daytime heat.
IDPs in Abyan complained to the Yemen Times of dirty and standing water they have to use because of a shortage of clean water. The WHO said that they cover 16 schools in order to solve this problem. The WHO is supporting two mobile health care units in Aden and one in Lahj. These mobile units are delivering health care services to IDPs living mostly in schools and with host families.
Another common complaint by IDPs is that their children suffer badly from diarrhea diseases. In response the WHO has sent a complete diarrhea disease treatment kit to Aden, which includes antibiotics, oral rehydration salts (ORH) and intravenous fluids for the management of 100 severe and 400 moderately dehydrated patients. This has been delivered to the Al-Razi Hospital which is providing inpatient treatment. The WHO has also sent one interagency emergency health kit (IEHK), which is a metric ton of medicines and supplies for primary health care – enough for a population of 30,000 for one month – to Abyan for Al-Razi hospital.
The outbreak of diarrhea has grown increasingly serious in Abyan governorate. Between April 7 and June 15, Al-Razi hospital has reported 667 patients admitted suffering diarrhea. A hospital in Shokra has also reported 75 cases. The number of cases in the population at large will be far higher, as there is no system to collect and report the cases due to security situation in Abyan. There are no figures as to how many are suffering or dying at home away from the hospital – the only place where records are kept. The situation looks as it will get worse with outbreaks spreading to the neighboring governorates of Lahj and Aden if immediate action to control the diseases are not taken now.
In addition to maintaining a supply chain of medicines and supplies, the WHO has also chlorinated 12 water wells in the affected areas to try and control the outbreak. WHO has trained volunteers from the community in Abyan as they have more access to locals there, but the security situation has still stopped the local and emergency projects from working.