05/23/2018, 12.33
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MSF warn of increasingly grave health crisis in war torn Yemen

The most critical situation in the north-west. Almost 17 thousand air raids on the country in three years. In December, in the Saada governorate alone, 541 attacks. MSF operators have treated 7,000 people, of whom 44% are children under five and 41% are women. Terminally ill have difficult access to medical care or treatments.

Sana'a (AsiaNews) - In Yemen, bombing and transport costs are increasingly aggravating the health emergency and preventing people from accessing medical care. The alarm is launched by the humanitarian workers of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), who say the worst situation isin the north-west, where in the last six months the Saudi-led international coalition (and the Emirates) has intensified attacks against the Houthi Shiite rebels. The population, MSF experts warn in a report sent to AsiaNews, is today more than ever "exposed" to the "trauma" deriving from the conflict.

The denunciation of a rapidly deteriorating situation comes from the Haydan hospitals and the Saada governorate. According to the latest data concerning the war elaborated by Yemen Data Project, almost 17 thousand air strikes have pelted the country over the past three years, with an average of 15 per day.

In the Saada governorate alone, 541 raids were recorded in December, with a 67% increase compared to the previous month. The civil victims are worrying: in fact, at least one in three raids hit non-military sites. These include public infrastructure, markets, homes and civilian vehicles. Roads are an easy target for bombs and the incessant series of attacks make travel difficult.

The Haydan hospital lies near the front. It was reopened in March of last year after having been destroyed by a bombing in 2015. There MSF has treated about 7 thousand people, of which 44% are children under five and 41% women. Every day the structure receives an average of 60 people; children are hospitalized for respiratory infections, dysentery and anaemia.

MSF coordinator at Haydan, Frédéric Bonnot, confirms that the bombings have "an impact on our ability to transfer patients" to other more equipped facilities. This causes "delays" in the face of "life or death situations".

"In mountainous areas - adds Roberto Scaini, MSF Vice President - and remote villages, the biggest problem remains how to get there [...]. Often the war wounded arrive in critical conditions. For those suffering from chronic illnesses, heart disease or tumors, it is difficult to guarantee long-term treatment throughout Yemen ".

In this context of war and devastation, there are continuous stories of suffering: like that of little Abeer, a three-week-old girl, who arrived at the hospital in the arms of her grandfather. He had to sell his knife (Jambiya) to pay for the travel expenses, while her father stayed in the fields. Now she is on antibiotics. Or that of 19-year-old Qoussor, who has always lived under the war, and today has a son of a month and a half old called Nabil, who has difficulty breathing. They waited over an hour and a half at the edge of the road, before finding a car that would take them to the hospital, where the child was hospitalized for more than a week.

A brutal civil war has gripped the Arab country since January 2015, pitting Saudi-backed Sunnis led by former President Hadi, against Houthi Shias, supported by Iran and Hezbollah.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began attacking the  rebels, sparking criticism from the United Nations over heavy civilian casualties, including many children.

The apostolic vicar, Mgr Paul Hinder, has repeatedly spoken out against the ongoing disaster.  Christians too have become embroiled in the conflict as well, like in the attack against the Missionaries of Charity in Aden.

Today the Houthi occupy about 30 per cent of the country, especially in the north, where most of the population is concentrated. In the pro-Saudi, government-controlled south, a new battle line has emerged with the arrival on the scene of pro-United Arab Emirate separatists, further complicating the situation. Yemen, which was united as country in 1990, appears to be increasingly at risk of implosion, caught in the crossfire of a battle for regional supremacy. In a context of wars and divisions, Riyadh has also imposed a blockade last November in response to Houthi rocket attacks. In turn, this has exacerbated the food and medicine emergency.

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