Thousands of Yemeni Children’s Lives at Risk as Healthcare Services Plummet
By Save the Children
Healthcare for children in war-torn Yemen has been further devastated by a combination of funding cuts and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children warned.
Between January and April of this year, the number of people accessing child health care services plummeted by 81 percent, according to recent data. Some remaining healthcare resources are now focused on providing COVID-19 services, families cannot afford to travel to access medical care or are afraid to visit health facilities in the midst of the rapidly expanding coronavirus outbreak.
With hospitals and health facilities also facing critical shortages of doctors and nurses, the agency said this threatens to leave thousands of children without the medical attention they need to survive.
These are shattering blows at a time when Yemen needs support more than ever. Its population is caught up in a lethal combination of violence, disease and hunger.
According to the Country Director for Save the Children in Yemen, Xavier Joubert: “People are turning up with their children at health facilities only to find there’s not enough resources to help everyone, not to mention the shortage of PPE which prevents doctors and other staff from working.”
“For over five years, millions of children have been battling for their survival every day. Now we have seen a shocking reduction of 80% in the use of healthcare services for children since the beginning of the year. While healthcare is suffering across the board children are being hardest hit, endangering thousands who need support on a daily basis. The world is standing by, and even reducing funding, while children are dying.”
An example is Salem, 45 from Saada, a father of six whose youngest child is nine months old and is severely acutely malnourished. Salem said “We are afraid to go to the hospital because of the virus that is killing people but when we see the threat of death in the eyes of our sick child, we have no choice but to risk it and take him to the hospital, borrowing money just to pay the taxi fees that we can’t afford.”
“Many families isolate themselves from the coronavirus but what is the point if children are being killed inside their home by air strikes or die because of lack of transportation.”
Five years of war had already pushed the health sector in Yemen to the brink, with only half of the healthcare facilities in the country operational even before the pandemic. With existing services now functioning as COVID-19 treatment centers, child healthcare services are increasingly sidelined.
Less than half of the $627 million needed for 2020 health response in Yemen has been funded, compromising life-saving work. Since January, Save the Children saw a gradual decrease of access to its own health services for children, with a dramatic deterioration from May onwards. A monthly average of 450 people per clinic could not be treated, including an estimated 207 children suffering from preventable diseases like dengue fever and cholera – both of which can be deadly without treatment.
At the same time, the number of malnourished children under five is estimated to reach 2.4 million by the end of this year. Water and sanitation services vital to the health of Yemen’s children are also critically underfunded and could be forced to close.