Twenty-five year old Anwaar Alwesabi is pregnant with her third child. Against the backdrop of a four year long civil war, it’s a dangerous position to be in. Prenatal healthcare is hard to access.

Less than half of the health facilities in Yemen are functioning. Many have been damaged by bombs. Others have been forced to close because they’re too near to the fighting.

Most have run out of medical supplies or electricity. Few hospitals have skilled doctors working in them, because Yemen’s doctors haven’t been paid for two years, so doctors have been forced to seek alternative ways to make a living to provide for their children and families.

The survival of a child is threatened in Yemen from the moment a mother-to-be becomes pregnant. How? Not only are they under attack due to war, there is also a dire need for food.  

More than one million pregnant or breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished. Some of those who are pregnant already have children, but those children are among the 400,000 in Yemen who are suffering from such extreme starvation that they could die at any moment.

Mothers who are malnourished themselves struggle to breastfeed.
Anwaar Alwesabi, 25, visits Sana’a hospital’s UNICEF supported Reproductive Health Unit to check on the health of the baby growing inside her. She’s seen by Aman Al-Jalas who has been working as a midwife at the hospital for 28 years. © UNICEF Yemen/2018/Motaz Fuad

Every ten minutes a child in Yemen dies from preventable causes – war, starvation or disease. There’s no wonder that mothers across the country are worrying: what kind of place is Yemen for a child to be born in?

On top of malnutrition and the collapse of the health system, pregnant women suffer deep psychological trauma that can cause complications during childbirth.

“My previous births were by caesarean sections," says Anwaar, already a mother of two.
"I suffered a lot during these births because of high blood pressure and stress. That’s why I’m keen on repeated visits to the Reproductive Health Unit."
"I suffered a lot during these births because
of high blood pressure and stress

With UNICEF’s support these check-ups are free. Anwaar’s midwife Aman Al-Jalas has worked at the hospital for 28 years. “Taking care of a pregnant woman’s nutrition and reproductive health is important to reduce the complications that a baby may suffer after birth," says Aman Al-Jalas.

But food is an increasingly rare commodity in Yemen.

A month and two weeks old and weighing just 700 grams, Baby Hassan has had a rocky start to life. © UNICEF/Yemen/MotazFuad

Preterm babies in Yemen suffer twice: the first time when they’re still in the womb due to their mothers’ poor nutrition and subsequent poor health, and the second time after they are born into a disease and conflict-ridden country.

Malnourished newborns have poor immunity. Many water sources are contaminated across Yemen and cases of the deadly water-borne disease of cholera are increasing.

In May Yousra Farah gave birth to twins boys two months early. Hassan weighed just 700 grams at birth and his twin brother was 1.2 kg. The twins suffered severe dehydration and had difficulty breathing. They were taken to a hospital nursery and given oxygen and drugs to expand their lungs.

"A few days after the twins were in the hospital, one of the twins could leave after his health improved, but Hassan was suffering from weakness and difficulty in breathing, so we had to keep him in the nursery," says Dr. Abeer, a nurse in the newborn department.

After weeks of being in the nursery, Hassan’s health began to improve. When he reached 1.2kg in weight his parents took him home, but his stay was short-lived. His weight dropped back to 700 grams so Hassan was taken back to the hospital, where with UNICEF’s support he was again treated. Now little by little Hassan's health is improving, but he’s still underweight and suffering from anaemia.
Halima al-Touki gave birth to her 10-day-daughter, Aziya, at home with the help of a midwife, but her baby's umbilical cord was not properly clamped, resulting in potentially fatal bleeding. © UNICEF/Yemen/MotazFuad

Nursery units in Yemeni hospitals are filled with newborn babies, like 10-day-old Aziya, who needs urgent care for complications including malnutrition.

"Our baby is very well cared here in the nursery, and she is getting better now," says Aziya’s father Ali al-Qusi.
"I thank UNICEF for supporting the children
and the nurses who save our childrens lives
Yes, I'll Help to
Save a Newborn

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