8 March 2023 – The high number of people seeking treatment at Abs hospital, in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate, has left hospital staff and essential services overwhelmed, according to international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Patients frequently have to share beds, and the emergency room, maternity unit, neonatal unit and inpatient therapeutic feeding centre frequently operate at way more than 100 per cent capacity. MSF, whose teams have worked in the hospital since 2015, says it has reached the limit of its capacity to respond.
“In response to the increase in patient numbers over the years, we’ve adapted our support to Abs hospital by extending different departments, increasing bed capacity and consolidating human resources,” says MSF head of mission Caroline Ducarme. “This support to Abs hospital has become one of MSF’s biggest humanitarian responses worldwide, but today we have reached the limit of our capacity to respond, in terms of space, human resources and supply.”
The increased demand on Abs hospital’s services is due to a number of factors, including the protracted conflict in Yemen; the lack of affordable quality primary healthcare services, which means that patients who would otherwise seek care in local clinics are obliged to go to hospitals for treatment, often not arriving until their condition is serious; and the poor living conditions in camps for displaced people in Abs district, including a lack of clean water and sanitation, leading to disease outbreaks.
The situation was exacerbated in 2022 when funding cuts caused several health providers to stop working in Hajjah governorate and nearby Al Hudayda governorate. As a result, services were discontinued at several health facilities, while others were left with insufficient medical supplies, increasing the pressure on Abs hospital.
“Even though we have significantly developed our activities in Abs hospital over the years, increasing bed capacity from 33 to 288, and supporting more than 80 per cent of the hospital departments, we are still not able to cover everyone’s needs,” says Ducarme.
Abs hospital is the only hospital for the around one million people in the region, and MSF is the only international organisation with a permanent presence in the area. In 2022, MSF’s teams at Abs hospital team provided 79,325 emergency consultations, assisted 10,181 deliveries, cared for 3,095 newborn babies in the neonatal unit, treated 2,944 malnourished children in the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre, performed 5,237 surgical interventions and treated 1,202 patients for malaria.
While MSF will continue to support Abs hospital in 2023, there is an urgent need for additional health organisations to step up and support the provision of healthcare in the district, where people have a range of urgent health needs, including the risk of malnutrition and measles.
“The drastic impact of the protracted conflict on the health system in Yemen requires additional efforts from donors and humanitarian organisations to develop and strengthen the healthcare system to ensure that quality and affordable healthcare is accessible to all in Abs district, in Hajjah governorate and across Yemen,” says Caroline Ducarme. “Urgent action is also required from health authorities and humanitarian and development organisations to address the gaps in primary healthcare, to ensure timely access to medical care and to reduce risks of complications, which lead to an increased demand for secondary healthcare services.”
MSF is proceeding with the reorganization of its activities in Abs hospital in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. This plan which was launched in 2022, includes revising the referral and admission criteria for some services and handing over some services to the Ministry of Public Health, in addition to implementing adjustments in the management of human resources. Through this reorganisation, MSF aims to improve the quality of care and focusing on the most vulnerable patients and on lifesaving activities, while building up the capacity of the national health system to ensure sustainable solutions for healthcare provision in Abs district.
To learn more about MSF support to Abs hospital, please check this online page: Exposure page Eng
MSF has been working in Yemen since 1986 and its teams have worked continuously in the country since 2007. In 2022, MSF teams worked in 12 hospitals and provided support to another 16 health facilities across 13 governorates.