In Southern Yemen, the IRC Helps Rebuild a Health Clinic Amid Ongoing Conflict

 

International Rescue Committee

About International Rescue Committee

 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. At work in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities to restore safety, dignity and hope, the IRC leads the way from harm to home.

 

By Rebecca Blum

 

Rebecca Blum, emergency preparedness and response program manager with the International Rescue Committee, visited IRC programs in Yemen in September 2012 and shared this account:
Yemen has the second highest rate of malnutrition in the world, trailing only Afghanistan. Fifty-eight percent of Yemeni children are stunted and one million suffer from acute malnutrition. In the southern part of the country, ongoing conflict between militias and government forces has driven people from their homes, exacerbating the situation.
The Aden Sora Clinic, a long, low building, blindingly white in the morning sun, sits behind an arched gate, next to the sweeping expanse of the Arabian Sea. The clinic provided health care for a population of more than 100,000, but as conflict escalated in southern Yemen over the last 18 months, attendance dropped. Doctors fled, supplies dwindled. Aden Sora struggled to remain open just one or two mornings a week.
In August 2012, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began working with Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population to revive the clinic, increasing services, staff, supplies and hours. Now Aden Sora opens its gate to a continuous stream of patients all week long. Mothers, swathed from head to toe in black, walk their children through the archway to have them weighed, measured and examined for malnutrition, tuberculosis, bronchitis and other health problems.
By 10am on this particular morning, more than 30 mothers, many with three or four children, wait in the atrium. Some stand in front of the pharmacy, waiting to fill prescriptions for themselves and their children. Some wait outside the nutrition room, where Dr. Arwa and a nurse weigh a tiny one-year-old who struggles to hold up her head. She is diagnosed with malnutrition and started on Plumpy’nut, a therapeutic food made from peanuts. Others wait for Dr. Hussein, who moves from child to child, listening for signs of bronchitis, testing for malaria, and providing first immunizations.

Dr. Hussein gives a child his first check-up. In addition to his work at the Aden Sora Clinic, he also runs his own private clinic several days a week, where he treats displaced people for free. [Photo: Rebecca Blum/IRC]

 

Dr. Hussein, like more than 90% of the clinic’s medical staff, is from Aden and has experienced first-hand the fighting that has disrupted health services and sent maternal mortality rates soaring. But now, the clinic’s reproductive health center hums with the activities of nurses and doctors who provide approximately 200 women each month with pre- and postnatal care, confidential family planning and 24/7 delivery services—all with the help of a new generator and ongoing midwife training provided by the IRC. 

In one office, a nurse is explaining family-planning options to a female patient who already has four children. Across the hallway, Dr. Hadi, one of the 11 new staff members that the IRC brought on board at the clinic, bends over to write a prescription for a pregnant patient, which she can fill at the adjacent IRC-stocked pharmacy, whose shelves sat empty two months ago.

Women in front of the newly-stocked pharmacy fill prescriptions for themselves and their children. When the IRC arrived there was only a handful of medicine on the shelf. Now, the newly-stocked pharmacy provides patients with immediate access to all essential medicine. [Photo: Rebecca Blum/IRC]

 

Dr. Hadi takes a moment to describe the changes he has helped implement over the past two months. “We are seeing some of the highest malnutrition levels in the world in southern Yemen,” he says. “The Aden Sora Clinic was understaffed and undersupplied when the IRC started; now we have people who have suffered months or even years of hunger and conflict coming to the clinic each day for free nutrition, primary health care and reproductive health services. Just last week, the clinic delivered its first baby.”
You can measure impact in impressions: a stream of patients where two months ago there was a handful; in images: Dr. Hussein’s hands cupping a tiny baby boy as he lowers him onto a scale; in numbers: a three-fold increase in patients in the past two months; or in a name: Afkar, that first baby, named for the IRC-trained midwife who delivered her this month.
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