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DUBAI: Millions of Yemenis will receive essential healthcare this year thanks to a new initiative taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).


The $20.5 million program, which will support the delivery of essential health services, is part of a broader $46 million deal between the two agencies covering projects on COVID-19 preparedness and response, nutrition, water and environmental sanitation services.


“Thanks to this new generous contribution from KSrelief, this initiative will contribute to providing essential health services to the Yemeni population while working with relevant stakeholders on rebuilding the health system in Yemen,” Adham Ismail, the WHO’s representative in Yemen, told Arab News.


“This new support is timely and particularly welcome as funding streams for humanitarian operations in Yemen, including the health sector, have decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”


The initiative, which grew out of an agreement signed in Sept. 2020, will provide the Yemen Health Cluster with help in the form of information management, emergency operation centers and running costs for its coordination offices. Up to 5.1 million people are expected to benefit from the improvements.


The WHO says critical support will be provided for the Minimum Service Package (MSP), with a particular focus on 15 hospitals located in priority districts, to improve the Yemeni population’s access to secondary care.


The MSP includes, but is not limited to, reproductive and maternal health, strengthening preparedness capacity and improving the capacity of health staff and pre-hospital and referral care. Up to 1.8 million people stand to benefit.


The campaign is expected to continue throughout the year, with WHO Yemen maintaining regular contact with KSrelief officials to consider the next steps.


“KSrelief is considered by the WHO as a strategic partner in Yemen and globally,” Ismail said. “This is because they play an instrumental role in increasing access for disadvantaged Yemenis to quality health services while working with health authorities and partners on developing the health system in general.”


In a recent interview with Arab News, Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor-general of KSrelief, said the agency has allocated “most of its aid to the brothers in Yemen,” and that 575 projects have been implemented there at a cost of nearly $3.5 billion. Landmine clearance and the rehabilitation of child soldiers recruited by the Iran-backed Houthi militia have been particular priorities.


Continuous support from KSrelief has allowed the WHO to provide lifesaving medicines, including treatment for patients with chronic, life-threatening conditions, such as kidney failure. The partnership has also supported child immunization and maternity programs.


Yemen is bearing witness to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Some 24.3 million people — roughly 80 percent of the population — now require some form of humanitarian assistance or protection. “The health system is on the brink of collapse,” the WHO said.


“More than 17.9 million people (out of the total population of 30 million) needed healthcare services in 2020. At the same time, only half of the health facilities are fully functioning, and those that remain open lack qualified health staff, essential medicines, and medical equipment like masks and gloves, as well as oxygen and other necessary supplies.”


On Dec. 29, 2020, KSrelief concluded its fifth medical campaign as part of the Saudi volunteer program for heart disease and cardiac surgery in Yemen, with the participation of 11 specialists.


For the past three years, Yemen has witnessed a rise in cholera, diphtheria, dengue and malaria. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the situation and significantly impacted the health system in terms of the utilization and access to health services.


“Additionally, COVID-19 has impacted supply chains, as evident from the increased supply costs, demand and supply gaps, significant delays and increased transportation costs,” Ismail said.


“Thanks to the generous and continuous support from KSrelief, we have been able to help preserve the health system in Yemen and provide essential health services to the population. We look forward to strengthening our multifaceted partnership with KSrelief, including with regards to our nutrition program and the COVID-19 response.”


The WHO and KSrelief have now announced a new partnership, aimed at offering free treatment to more than 23,400 severely malnourished children under the age of five in 90 targeted therapeutic feeding centers across Yemen.


With funding worth $5.5 million, the project aims to fight child malnutrition by sustaining essential nutrition services and enhancing access to life-saving interventions for the most vulnerable.


Water, sanitation and hygiene kits will be provided to support the children and their caregivers, who will also receive nutrition counselling, benefitting more than 46,800 people.


The project targets all governorates classified at levels 3 (crisis) and 4 (emergency), according to the 2019 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).


Priority will be given to 226 districts identified at high risk by the Nutrition Cluster, based on the latest evidence and the IPC findings for 2020, because of their pronounced food insecurity, high population density, and vulnerable internally displaced and refugee populations.


The project will also rehabilitate 45 out of the 90 therapeutic feeding centers while establishing 13 new centers to enhance access to treatment and health services in districts where acute malnutrition is a public health concern. A total of 1,400 health workers will be trained in the field.


“Thanks to the generous contributions of KSrelief, WHO will be able to provide these children with much needed, often life-saving assistance,” Ismail said. “The timely support is particularly welcome as Yemen faces unprecedented child malnutrition.”


The support aims to benefit over 4.5 million children under five in the coming years.

Twitter: @CalineMalek

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