Another day in the war zone

ConflictHealth workersYemen

Amira* felt like her whole world was falling apart. She’d been a pharmacist in a rural hospital in north-western Yemen for two years – working without payment, but determined to save lives.

She only had simple equipment and medications, and staff numbers were low because salaries weren’t able to be paid. Volunteering in a war zone, in a location vulnerable to bombings, only appeals to the most determined.

She only had simple equipment and medications, and staff numbers were low because salaries weren’t able to be paid. Volunteering in a war zone, in a location vulnerable to bombings, only appeals to the most determined. 

After three years of conflict, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen continues. Over 22 million people need aid and 8.4 million people are at risk of famine.

It has been labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Tearfund partners are working in this challenging context, and will continue to be there long-term.

An ongoing diphtheria outbreak has infected over 1,300 people, 80% of them children. Meanwhile cholera is still proving a big threat. Despite rates of infection falling since the end of 2017, when the number of cases surpassed one million, a new outbreak is looming due to poor water and sanitation provisions.

Feeling helpless
Amira was motivated to pursue her work despite such circumstances. She’d enjoyed studying pharmacology at university and was desperate to help those in need. 

During the height of the cholera crisis 90 new cases of cholera came to the wards of her hospital in just one day. The drug store was empty and so many of the patients died. Amira felt helpless.

Amira was motivated to pursue her work despite such circumstances. She’d enjoyed studying pharmacology at university and was desperate to help those in need. During the height of the cholera crisis 90 new cases of cholera came to the wards of her hospital in just one day. The drug store was empty and so many of the patients died. Amira felt helpless. 

For days the situation didn’t improve and she lost the last glimmer of enthusiasm. It left her feeling she had no option but to quit and leave the hospital.

The turnaround
At the same time a Tearfund partner organisation began providing the hospital with more medications for cholera, and special beds for treating patients.

They started training staff in how to deal with cholera cases urgently and efficiently, and began a community awareness programme to help people avoid getting infected.

There were also funds to pay salaries for all the staff, which encouraged people to stay.

Amira now had a fresh urgency to her work and an expanded role, helping medical staff
receiving and treating the cholera cases and contributing to the awareness campaign.

‘I can’t find words to describe my happiness when saving a life of a person, and bringing new hope to families. I am grateful to Tearfund’s partner,’ says Amira.

Megan Howe, Tearfund’s Yemen Programme Officer, says: ‘Although the number of cholera cases has decreased significantly since last year, a fresh outbreak remains a threat throughout the country, as many people still require basic sanitation and the rainy season will start soon. I am so thankful for the commitment of Yemeni staff and volunteers who are providing aid in the midst of incredibly challenging circumstances.’

*name changed to protect identity


Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.