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IRC health workers examine a child being held by his father in the village of Mosuk, Yemen
War in Yemen

Follow a mobile health team treating children in Yemen's remotest villages

Photo: Kellie Ryan
Senior Global Communications Officer, International Rescue Committee

International Rescue Committee mobile health teams in war-torn Yemen are delivering lifesaving medical services to people living in remote mountainous regions. In the village of Mosuk, about a five-hour drive from the port city of Aden, the teams treat malnourished children, many suffering from cholera, every Wednesday. Follow one of their weekly journeys.

Each day of the week, IRC health teams negotiate dangerous, rocky terrain to deliver health care to people who have no other access to medical treatment. With Yemen on the brink of famine, and struggling to contain the world’s largest cholera outbreak in modern history, the IRC’s work in this ravaged country is crucial.

Children stand in front of an IRC mobile health team vehicle in a mountainous village in Yemen

Residents of Mosuk have seen transportation and food costs skyrocket since 2015, the beginning of their country’s civil war, and most cannot afford to hire a car to take their sick children to the nearest hospital, two hours away.

IRC mobile health clinics visit Mosuk once a week to screen children for malnutrition and treat those suffering from cholera and other health problems. 

An IRC health worker measures a young boy as he screens him for malnutrition at an IRC mobile health clinic in Mosuk Village, Yemen

To reach Mosuk, high in the mountains of southern Yemen, IRC teams first visit Radfan Hospital to pick up medical equipment and supplies before embarking on the arduous two-hour drive. 

Some 2.2 million Yemeni children are malnourished—80 percent of them severely. IRC teams distribute Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste used in emergency treatment of malnourished children, and monitor their progress during return visits. 

Yemen's ongoing conflict has decimated its infrastructure and destroyed health facilities, putting more than 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Across the country, one child under five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. Here, a member of an IRC mobile health team uses MUAC tape to examine a child in Mosuk. MUAC tape measures the mid-upper arm circumference of children to identify levels of malnutrition. 

Dima

Dima stands inside her home in Mosuk. The young girl has been treated by IRC mobile health teams for cholera and malnutrition. “She had diarrhea and vomiting, and we feared that it might be the disease they were talking about,” recalls Dima’s mother, Rawiyah. “We took her for treatment. The IRC tested her, gave her injections, Plumpy’nut, and medicines. She has recovered and is feeling better now.”

Dima’s father is a police officer but has not been paid in more than six months. Her parents struggle to feed their children and meet their basic needs. “There is no food anymore,” Rawiyah says. “People will die.”  

Yemen has recorded more than one million cases of cholera. With more than half of its health care facilities destroyed by fighting and airstrikes, and a mass exodus of physicians, the country cannot adequately respond to the deadly epidemic. 

Abdul Ghafar sits with his three-year-old son Abdullah outside their home in the village of Mosuk in southern Yemen. Adbullah had contracted cholera. “One night he was vomiting and having diarrhea,” says Abdul. “I knew the IRC mobile clinic was coming here in two days, so I brought him there. He received good care from the IRC. They gave him medicine and set him up with an IV drip. Now he is fine.” Abdullah is still being treated for malnourishment, and his father worries about the lack of clean water and food in the village.

“Ever since this child was born, he has been sick,” says Abdul. “Sometimes we have one meal a day. Sometimes we don’t eat at all.”