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Yemen: Making Progress

27 Apr 2016

“Two bombs fell last night less than one kilometre from our house. It was a very strange and scary feeling. We later learned that another Médecins Sans Frontières hospital had been targeted in the north of the country and that two Médecins Sans Frontières staff had been seriously injured*. It’s upsetting; the targeting of hospitals evokes strong feelings. People are questioning “Does international humanitarian law even exist anymore? Are there absolutely no rules?”

My time here is passing quickly. It seems that all the administrative hiccups are out of the way now and we are starting the real work, which is great. We have set up processes for triage and patient registration. We are hiring and training staff, and have provided them with new uniforms. We have refreshed the Emergency Department with a new coat of paint, new beds and new equipment (e.g. cardiac monitors, ECG machines, an ultrasound machine etc).

The doctors and nurses have started to understand our vision and are getting very motivated too. There is still a phenomenal amount of work to do with regard to hygiene, infection control and medical and nursing practices but this is doable, and we’re very excited to put everything in place. I’ve been putting in 12 to 14 hour days, six or seven days each week. As strange as it might sound, I’m enjoying it here. Yemeni people are beautiful. Every day without fail, someone – my translator, the cleaner, even soldiers – will bring me a cup of sweet tea or a bag of sultanas.

Our team is very multicultural; so diverse and so interesting. I work with people from Yemen, Palestine, Romania, Nigeria, Mexico, Japan and Switzerland. Despite the confronting work, security constraints and lack of entertainment, we somehow manage to create a nice atmosphere.”

*On 10 January 2016, the Médecins Sans Frontières-supported Shiara hospital in Razeh, Saada Province, near the border with Saudi Arabia, was hit by a projectile killing six and injuring seven. This follows two other such incidents against Médecins Sans Frontières health facilities in Yemen: one in Haydan, Saada province on 26 October 2015, and another on a Médecins Sans Frontières tented clinic in Houban, Taiz governorate, on 2 December 2015. We has called for an independent investigation into the Razeh incident by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.