Posted March 30, 2021 9:18 am by

Dr. Kanem speaks to a woman lying on a bed at a maternity ward. Both are wearing face masks.

CRATER, Yemen Mar 30 –  “It was the morning of a normal working day before fighting escalated close to the hospital. I heard a mother screaming at the gate,” midwife Shrook Khalid Saeed told UNFPA this week at the Al Shaab Hospital in the district of Crater, in Yemen.

By the time she arrived at the entrance to the hospital, hostilities in the area had flared and a gunfight had broken out. “Bullets were coming from all the corners of the street,” she recounted. “When I arrived at the gate, I found the pregnant woman lying down and crying for help. I pulled her and rushed her inside a car… That is where all of it happened. In a few minutes, she had delivered a healthy baby boy.”

Childbirth can be harrowing in even the best of times but the cascade of humanitarian crises in Yemen have made the journey to motherhood more dangerous than ever. The country’s long-running conflict has depleted the health system. Currently only half of all health facilities are functioning.

Dr. Kanem speaks to women in a maternity ward, where patients spoke vividly of their fears. © UNFPA Yemen 

The pandemic has only aggravated things, with roughly 15 per cent of the health system shifted to deal with COVID-19 cases. Only 20 per cent of functioning health facilities are providing maternal and child health services.  

Today, a woman in Yemen dies during childbirth every two hours, almost always from preventable causes. And now, the threat of famine looms.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem during her recent three-day visit to the country. 

In place of joy, fear looms

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are especially vulnerable during food insecurity. Currently 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, and these numbers could double if humanitarian funding does not materialize. 

“When I came to receive antenatal care at Al Shaab Hospital, I was very weak and pale. I could not stand straight,” 33-year-old Hafsa told UNFPA during Dr. Kanem’s visit. “My nutritional status was very poor. I was given medicines to supplement my diet, and I was advised to eat meat, vegetables and fruits.”

Drawings and messages adorn the wall of a women's shelter.
Artwork adorns the walls of a women’s shelter. © UNFPA Yemen

But good nutrition was beyond reach due to her family’s low income. When she delivered her daughter months later, the girl weighed only 1.8 kg. “The baby stayed Read More…