Making Health Care Accessible in Yemen: The Power of Mobile Health Teams
In Yemen, millions of people lack access to health care. Less than half of the country’s health facilities are fully functional, though after six years of violent conflict, more than 80% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Healthcare needs are spiking due to COVID-19, widespread acute malnutrition, poverty, and other effects of the conflict, though reductions in funding have forced the UN to suspend aid to 300 health centers across Yemen.
Access to healthcare is most critical for rural, remote, and poverty-affected communities. To address this growing health crisis, MedGlobal is launching a Mobile Teams program to bring health care to communities in need. These Mobile Teams will deliver primary health services to underserved, hard-to-reach areas in the Al Shamayateen and Al Mozea districts of Taiz governorate. The area’s mountainous terrain and lack of serviceable roads poses significant challenges to healthcare delivery. The cost of transportation, especially for frequent trips to health centers, is an insurmountable barrier that forces isolated populations living on top of mountains to walk upwards of four hours to reach the nearest health facility.
The ongoing conflict – for which Taiz has become a frontline – adds additional hurdles to access and exacerbates health needs. The region has the highest recorded number of landmines and 2,300 civilians have been killed since fighting began, the worst civilian death toll of any governorate. In 2019 alone, seven health facilities were attacked in this region, impacting access to health services for more than 32,500 households.
MedGlobal’s three Mobile Teams, each composed of a team leader, nurse, midwife, and medical assistant, will coordinate with four health facilities in these districts to ensure widespread coverage and continuity of care. The teams will provide access to consultations, lab work, medications, and follow-up care to households that have difficulty accessing health services. Each month, the teams are expected to reach 500 patients with services including maternal and child health, nutrition, immunizations, and community health education.
While other NGOs have deployed mobile medical teams in other regions of Taiz in the past, funding cuts have forced many programs to cease operations. Restoring and sustaining access to health services is especially crucial as Yemen begins to enter its rainy season. Several cases of cholera have already been reported in Al Mozea and there are currently no treatment services available. Taiz also hosts a large population of internally displaced persons, many of whom have missed out on measles and polio vaccinations, who will be a core focus of the Mobile Teams’ work.
In the future, MedGlobal plans to establish additional teams in Taiz governorate and expand the program to Aden governorate as well. MedGlobal has worked in Yemen since 2017, providing health services and supporting 25 hospitals across six governorates. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, MedGlobal scaled up its work and began providing PPE and critical medical equipment to hospitals, rural health facilities, and isolation centers treating COVID-19 patients. Our Yemen team is expanding to ensure that critical health care is accessible and available to those most in need.