10 June 2019

Yemen: Parenting in a War Zone

More than four years of armed conflict in Yemen have served to worsen the situation of women and children at birth within a country that was already the poorest in the Middle East and one of the world’s most impoverished even before the war escalated early in 2015. For many, the conflict’s devastating toll on human life means that, as the world approaches the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), few have much to celebrate.   Today, Yemen’s brutal conflict continues to rob children of their right to life and, for the survivors, to the best healthcare possible. This includes prenatal and postnatal care for their mothers (CRC Article 24). One consequence of the war in Yemen is manifested as an evident attack on parenting.   Mothers and babies are amongst the most highly vulnerable in Yemen. Every two hours, one mother and six newborns die because of complications during pregnancy or birth. Essential public services, including healthcare crucial to support mothers and childbirth, are on the brink of total collapse. Only 51 per cent of all health facilities are fully functional, and even these face severe shortages in medicines, equipment, and staff.  In a country profoundly affected by the humanitarian crisis, delivery of routine primary healthcare services has also been overshadowed by the urgency of responding to the cholera epidemic and starvation. This leaves pregnant women and newborns with limited access to a broader range of maternal and child health services, including antenatal and emergency obstetric and neonatal care. According to accounts by women interviewed in an ongoing qualitative study on health services in Sana’a, Taiz and Aden, home births are also on the rise. They reported that because families are getting poorer by the day, an increasing number of women are opting to have their babies at home, and only seek medical care if they experience complications.