Premature newborn babies get medical attention in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Sana'a, Yemen, 30 June 2020 | Photo: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Premature newborn babies get medical attention in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Sana'a, Yemen, 30 June 2020 | Photo: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

Save the Children is sounding a new alarm over the situation for children in Yemen, where healthcare services were already in crisis due to the conflict and have been further hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Healthcare for children in war-torn Yemen has been further devastated by a combination of funding cuts and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children said in a statement. 

Between January and April of this year, the number of people accessing child health care services plummeted by 81%, according to recent data. Some remaining healthcare resources are now focused on providing COVID-19 services. 

With hospitals and health facilities also facing critical shortages of doctors and nurses, the agency said this situation threatens to leave thousands of children without the medical attention they need to survive. 

'The world is standing by' 

"People are turning up with their children at health facilities only to find there's not enough resources to help everyone, not to mention the shortage of PPE which prevents doctors and other staff from working," said Xavier Joubert, Country Director for Save the Children in Yemen. 

"For over five years, millions of children have been battling for their survival every day. Now we have seen a shocking reduction of 80% in the use of healthcare services for children since the beginning of the year. The world is standing by, and even reducing funding, while children are dying," Joubert said. 

Funding needed for assistance 

Less than half of the 627 million dollars needed for the 2020 health response in Yemen has been funded, said Save the Children. Starting in January, the organisation saw a gradual decrease of access to its own health services for children, with a dramatic deterioration from May onwards. 

A monthly average of 450 people per clinic could not be treated, including an estimated 207 children suffering from preventable diseases like dengue fever and cholera -- both of which can be deadly without treatment. 

At the same time, the number of malnourished children under five is estimated to reach 2.4 million by the end of this year. Water and sanitation services vital to the health of Yemen's children are also underfunded. 

"Instead of fighting, all parties involved should adhere to the call for a ceasefire to focus on mitigating the COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen, and the impacts it has on children," said Mahmud, Save the Children's Child Protection Officer in Saada. 

"I hope this wake-up call will not come too late and that donors will make additional commitments, so we can continue to provide assistance to the children of Yemen."
 

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