With only 50 percent of health facilities fully functional, the war in Yemen has led to a large and dramatic increase of people who need medical care from 5 million prior to the war to 16.4 million putting a lot of pressure on already-fragile health facilities. The latest cholera outbreak is only but an example of the impact of the failing health system.
“Some people lose their lives just because they can’t afford their medical treatment,” said Dr. Abdulghani Murshid, head of Amran General Hospital.
Amran Governorate is an example of how Yemen crisis has crippled more than of its health services. Amran General Hospital is the largest public provider of health services in Amran governorate, yet it is in a dire need of medical services because more than half of its facilities have stopped functioning due to the ongoing war.
The number of patients per day has dramatically increased to 800 cases and 60 cases in the inpatient unit; 200% compared to the prewar time. Most of these patients are Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) and vulnerable and conflict-affected people. These already-poor communities have no other choice but to seek treatment in this public hospital with subsidized services, which lacks operational costs and highly-qualified cadre.
"The nursing staff in the hospital weren't equipped enough, especially in terms of some essential skills and knowledge," said Dr. Abdulghani Murshid, Director General of Amran General Hospital, as he described the situation in the hospital in light of the difficult crisis in the country due to the lack of resources and the ongoing conflict in the country.
Under the USAID funded and supported Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP), the Social Fund for Development (SFD) implemented a project to train 27 nurses in Amran General Hospital to enable them to improve their nursing capacities, in addition to preparing a new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the hospital to cope with the high and increasing number of patients.
Ambitions amidst Struggle
During her childhood, Fatima Al-Ma'khadi, Head of the ICU, had always dreamt of wearing the white gown of doctors.
"I suffered a lot when I started working as a nurse at Amran General Hospital. At that time, I realized that I was not qualified to do anything more than just administering injections. I remember being very embarrassed when patients would ask for my help about medicines prescribed by doctors because I don't understand English," Fatima spoke bitterly about her experience.
Altaf, Head of the Neonatal Nursing Unit, started working as a nurse volunteer at the hospital after receiving a three-year nursing diploma. She wanted to finish high school and join college, but she couldn't due to the difficult financial situation of her family.
"I enjoyed my work despite the scant amount of money I used to get. However, I had great difficulty because of my low medical attainment. I wanted to study more and improve my skills," said Altaf.
Taking care of newborns is very challenging. While Yemen has a high infant mortality rate, Altaf seeks to save the lives of infants who lack the necessary health care.
Acquiring Skills to Save Lives
"I felt very happy when I heard that SFD will implement a project to train nurses in the hospital to obtain a high nursing diploma," said Fatima with a smile on her face as she remembers that moment.
1,110 community mid-wives, paramedics, physician assistants, health staff and nurses trained on maternal and newborn healthcare, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) and premature and neonatal care.
"Our skills and knowledge have improved day by day. Now I can read and write medical reports in English. I also know how to operate and use medical devices," said Fatima
Doctors at Amran General Hospital used to refer most of the cases that need intensive care to hospitals in Sana'a. However, the situation has changed and many units have been opened with qualified and well-trained nurses.
As of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), there are 19 incubators in the unit. The capacity of the unit has increased to more than 60 cases per day. Despite work pressure and the lack of adequate number of medical staff, Altaf endeavors to improve the services as much as possible.
"We feel that beneficiaries in the hospital are very satisfied. The number of patients has increased by more than 40% following the training courses provided to the staff of the hospital," said Dr. Abdulghani Murshid.
"We are saving lives in this tragic situation," he concluded.
UNDP has partnered with the Social Fund for Development (SFD) to implement the US$11,200,000 USAID funded and supported Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) to create employment opportunities, restore delivery of key health and education services, and revive agriculture sector to benefit vulnerable local households and communities amidst Yemen ongoing crisis.