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Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

  • Henry Ridgwell

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year.

Standing amid bombed out buildings in the heart of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, the Al Sabeen Hospital is a lifeline for children and pregnant women; but, it’s on the brink of collapse.

The aid agency Save the Children provides support to the hospital. Its spokesperson, Mark Kaye, has just returned from Sana’a – and he spoke to VOA via Skype from Jordan.

“Before the crisis it had a catchment population of about 300,000; but, since the crisis that number has risen to almost 3 million, with the entire governorate reliant on it for specialist care," said Kaye.

Managers say the hospital has run out of some medicines including intravenous fluids, anesthetics, blood transfusion tests and Valium.

In the nearby Al Olfi clinic, doctors are noticing a worrying trend – a sharp rise in the numbers of malnourished children. More than half a million people are expected to suffer severe malnutrition in 2015. Pediatrician Najibah Ali Al-Ghasal says the situation is critical.

“We are facing famine with our children,” she said. “We can't be sit by and wait. We call on the United Nations to look at the children who are innocent and shouldn't be experiencing malnutrition like this, their fear, and the anxiety we are facing.”

Aid agencies blame the acute shortages on the Saudi-led blockade and bombing of the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida. Up to 90 percent of hospital supplies were routed through the port. Again, Mark Kaye:

“So what we really need to see is unhindered access for these absolutely critical goods, otherwise more children and pregnant women will pay the price," he said.

Aid agencies warn that across Yemen, around 15 million people lack access to basic health care – and that will likely prove the deadliest consequence of the conflict.

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