Amid surging conflict in Yemen, UNICEF mobile teams respond to children’s urgent health needs

8th October 2015

Aden, 13 July 2015 – With health services across Yemen disintegrating under the impact of a brutal conflict, UNICEF and its partners are stepping up nutrition screening, vaccinations and other life-saving interventions for millions of children caught up in the ongoing crisis.

Julien Harneis, UNICEF Representative in Yemen said: “Our mobile teams and staff have to brave extremely hazardous conditions, risking their lives to reach children and women wherever they can. If they don’t do that more children are likely to die from malnutrition and preventable diseases. But what Yemen really needs now is a return to peace, a solution to the fuel and power crisis and restoration of regular health services.”

Since the fighting escalated in March, over 40,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and polio while close to 10,000 pregnant women received support for safe pregnancy and delivery through outreach and mobile health teams. More than 16,000 children have so far been treated for severe malnutrition.

Much of the work is undertaken by some 40 UNICEF-supported mobile health teams (up from just 16 before March) which have been deployed across the country to reach displaced populations. The services they deliver include screening for malnutrition, vaccination, deworming, treatment of malnutrition and childhood diseases, and support to pregnant and lactating women. Vitamin A and other micronutrient supplements are also provided to children and mothers.

In the southern city of Aden, which has witnessed particularly heavy bombardment and fighting, UNICEF supplied emergency ambulances as well as blood testing and transfusion services in the first weeks of the conflict to ensure that injured children can receive immediate treatment.

Currently the UNICEF team in Aden is supporting an immunization campaign as part of a nation-wide drive that aims to vaccinate around a million children under the age of one against measles, polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dr Gamila Hibatulla, UNICEF’s Nutrition and Health Officer said: “In spite of the insecurity, we are taking every opportunity to ensure that we reach children with healthcare services, especially vaccinations to protect them at this time when the health system has crumbled.”

She explains that the mobile teams have to use whatever sites they can find – including mosques and other public places – to deliver their services.  “It’s encouraging to see the parents bringing their children to the vaccination centres. They just tell us how happy they are that their children can be protected against diseases”, Ms Hibatulla adds.

The deteriorating situation in Yemen is taking a heavy toll on children’s health. Today, over 2.5 million children are at risk of diarrhoeal diseases and half a million are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Over 1.3 million children face the threat of acute respiratory tract infections and 2.6 million of them under the age of 15 are not protected against measles.

UNICEF reiterates the United Nations call for a humanitarian pause to enable the urgent delivery of food, water and medical attention to the most vulnerable population.

To continue and scale up critical preventive and treatment services, UNICEF is asking for $34 million for health programmes and $41.5 million for nutrition support for the most vulnerable children.

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Note to Editors: Download photos and broll from Yemen at: http://uni.cf/1CggcN0

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.ie

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For further information please contact:
Clare Herbert, UNICEF Ireland, Communications and Media Manager, clare@unicef.ie / +353 87 942 1281 / + 353 1 878 3000