Inside the struggling Al-Jumhoori Hospital in Sa’ada, Yemen
WHO plans to establish new therapeutic feeding centres in Sa’ada to cope with increasing cases of malnutrition. (Photo: WHO/ Sadeq Al-Wesabi)
Fifteen-year-old Ammar lies on a stretcher in the courtyard of Al-Jumhoori Hospital in Sa’ada, Yemen, suffering from burns to his face and body as the result of an explosion in his neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Ghaleb Abdullah, walks with difficulty on his crutches, recovering from an injury to his leg caused by flying shrapnel. His pain is further aggravated by having to wait to receive the needed treatment.
Many patients in Sa’ada, like Ammar and Ghaleb, struggle to access proper medical treatment. They flock to the overwhelmed and crumbling Al-Jumhoori Hospital, the only public referral hospital in Sa’ada, 240km from Sana’a, in search of care.
Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, around 2 000 people have been killed or injured in the sporadic violence which has plagued Sa’ada. Key infrastructure, including health facilities, have also been damaged in the governorate which has a population of more than 900,000 people.
Medicines and medical supplies are running out rapidly. These health challenges are compounded by the deteriorating humanitarian situation, a lack of electricity and a serious shortage of fuel for the generators necessary to run surgical equipment and operating rooms.
"Al-Jumhoori Hospital is the only public hospital that serves Sa’ada governorate but it is still operating under a serious shortage of medicines, medical supplies and specialized doctors," said Dr Mohammed Hajar, Director of the hospital’s director. “Our operational funding has been cut off so we have reduced the health services to an absolute minimum. In addition to the shortage of basic specialties, the hospital lacks ophthalmologists, obstetricians, gynecologists and cardiologists.”
Despite it all, Al-Jumhoori Hospital continues to treat hundreds of sick and wounded people. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank are working together to address some of the gaps, providing, among other things, fuel for the hospital’s generators, medicines, and a fixed surgical team.
Heroic health workers
Doctors, nurses, surgeons and other health workers have remained in the hospital to serve patients and treat those injured, in spite of the insecurity and economic challenges.
“The emergency room receives around 50 cases every day and sometimes the number rises to 70–80 cases, especially following sudden bombings,” said Dr Abdulla Al-Mawsemi, the head of the emergency room. “The place is usually crowded here, while the equipment, doctors and medicines are not sufficient to deal with the patients who are too poor to pay for medicines and health services in private health facilities.”
“Due to the huge gap in the number of doctors and health workers, we have to work for such long hours that we are suffering from psychological pressure and muscle strain,” he explained.
Ambulance drivers have also risked their lives to save people. Last year, Abdul-Malek Amer and his assistant Qasem Al-Shabi, employed by WHO and MSF, were killed in the line of duty. They were picking up injured patients when a bomb hit, killing both, destroying the ambulance, and injuring dozens of bystanders.
WHO and the World Bank: working together to support Al-Jumhoori Hospital and the country’s health system
Since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, WHO has maintained and rehabilitated the hospital's electricity network, intensive care unit and water and sanitation facilities, and has installed an oxygen cylinder filling plant inside the hospital to fix an oxygen shortage.
WHO is now scaling up its support to Al-Jumhoori Hospital thanks to a partnership with the World Bank. Together the two organizations are working to ensure that people across Sa’ada can access urgently needed care today and long into the future. This is part of a broader project between UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO to support 65 hospitals and more than 1000 primary health centres across Yemen.