To Treat or Feed: The Impossible Dilemma Families Face in Yemen

To Treat or Feed: The Impossible Dilemma Families Face in Yemen

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In a crowded corridor turned cholera isolation unit, doctors move from one bed to the next, nurses hurdling frantically around them, hoping that no more cases come in this afternoon. It has been an overwhelming few weeks and the pressure does not seem to cease. Amid the outdated monitors, rows of rehydration drips and moans and groans, are the wrinkled eyes of children, men, women and the elderly waiting desperately for some form of relief.

Fifty-five-year-old Ahmad Ali was brought to the Aljomhuri Hospital in Hajja City, Yemen, by his son. He had lost consciousness after five days of struggling with a cholera infection. “I was unable to afford the cost of traveling from my home to the city and to pay the hospital fees,” Ali explains between breaths. “My sons are jobless and I am the only one with an income source.” Ali tried to fight the disease with a homemade rehydration solution to avoid the expense of a hospital. But his condition worsened and he had to be brought to the hospital.

Yemen, already gripped by a humanitarian crisis described as the world’s worst, is also facing an acute and fast-spreading cholera outbreak affecting more than 200,000 people. The lack of a functioning health system and limited access to safe water and hygiene makes it difficult to contain the disease’s spread.

Like millions of others, poverty stopped Ali from going to the hospital when he started experiencing cholera symptoms. He was forced to make the difficult choice between spending his daily wage – barely enough to feed his family – on food or seeing a doctor. As a result, he suffered further infection on his kidney. 

18.8 million people in Yemen require humanitarian assistance. 14.5 million lack access to safe water and sanitation services, 17 million people are food insecure, and around 2 million are displaced from their homes. After nearly three years of escalated conflict, more than half of all health facilities in Yemen have closed or are only partially functioning. Most of the staff are volunteers now, having not received consistent salary payments over the last eight months. Hajja governorate has reported some of the highest numbers of suspected cholera cases with close to 20,000 reported since April

“This cholera outbreak is a symptom of a complex, multifaceted crisis that requires solutions beyond treating and preventing infections.” says Wael Ibrahim, Country Director of CARE International in Yemen.  But as the race to defeat the disease continues, a need to highlight the dire underlying needs that millions of Yemenis continue to face should not be overlooked. “Yemenis can no longer be forced to make the choice between crises. More needs to be done to support and strengthen systems necessary to respond effectively,” Wael says.

©️ 2017 Abdulhakim Ansi/CARE