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At a glance: Yemen

In Yemen, mobile health teams help save lives and prevent illness

WATCH: By the numbers: Yemen conflict devastates children

 

By UNICEF Yemen

Yemen’s ‘rescue cars’ are reaching out to communities in the most remote areas of the country to provide life-saving health and nutritional support. 

SANA’A, Yemen, 5 August 2015 – They call them the ‘rescue cars’. Travelling across the country, often on roads fraught with danger, the rescue cars provide a lifeline to families and communities in remote Yemen that have been cut off from vital health services since the escalation of violence across much of the country.

More accurately known as mobile health teams, the cars are staffed by health workers and community volunteers. There are currently 40 teams fanned out across the country to reach areas where health services have broken down, and where 1.3 million people displaced from their homes have settled. The health teams provide screening and treatment for malnutrition and childhood diseases, vaccinate eligible children and women, administer deworming medicine and offer support to pregnant and lactating women.

Fatima’s parents will not forget the day a rescue car braved the danger and distance over rough roads to reach their village.

The team climbed out of their vehicle and quickly took their equipment and boxes of supplies into a house that would serve as the clinic.

As an anxious group of villagers formed around the doorway to the clinic, woman health worker singled out frail Fatima. Four years old and the youngest of the family’s children, Fatima exhibited worrying signs: She was weak and pale, listless, and her belly was bloated. The child was weighed and measured.

“This will help your daughter get better – she’s severely malnourished,” Fatima’s father was told as he was given sachets of nutritious peanut paste to augment the poor diet that was all they’d been able to give their little girl.

“My daughter’s life was saved,” Fatima’s father later told UNICEF.

Relief

Prior to the escalation of violence in the country, Yemen, one of the most impoverished countries in the Middle East, already reported an alarmingly high rate of malnutrition – 51 per cent – among children aged under 5. The country grows almost none of its food, importing around 90 per cent of what is consumed. Blockades resulted in most foodstuffs being unavailable or unaffordable.

With the country now approaching the sixth month of bombardment, more than half a million children under age 5 are in need of prevention or treatment for severe acute malnutrition. These children often are at risk for other life-threatening illnesses, as well, such as acute respiratory infection, diarrhoeal disease and measles.

The mobile lifeline of the rescue cars targets the poorest of the poor. With routine vaccination programs disrupted at more than 900 health facilities, the need for the mobile teams has never been more urgent. Despite the desperation and difficulties since the fighting intensified in late March, more than 65,000 children have been reached and vaccinated against preventable childhood diseases and measles and polio.

“The teams are a vital link to the communities in Yemen. They take advantage of any lull in the attacks to rush and set up their vaccination tables wherever they can,” says UNICEF Nutrition and Health Officer Dr. Gamila Hibatulla. “The relief on the faces of parents of the children they treat is quite simply, priceless.”


 

 

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