Chicken pox epidemic spreads in Barhan [Archives:2006/952/Front Page]

June 5 2006

SANA'A, June 3 ) According to a n anoynmous Ministry of Health source, reports from Barhan village, 40km west of Sana'a, mention a highly contagious chicken pox spread involving 95 infected individuals.

Declining to be identified, the source said, “We actually were informed about the disease Wednesday and a ministry team rushed to the area that same night, diagnosing the diseases as chicken pox. We treated 95 cases all infected with the disease, prescribed necessary medicines and left behind a doctor and a nurse to remain in the village until the next day. After the doctor returned, we sent a message to the Epidemic Monitoring Department's director general, which told us it's a disease not subject to Health Ministry monitoring and that it's not dangerous. We were told to contact Director General Dr. Abdulhakim Al-Kuhlani, who refused to talk to us, giving certain excuses.”

Barhan villager Ali spoke about the tragedy and horror residents are experiencing due to the disease's spread, saying, “We've sought the help of the Health Ministry, the Capital Secretariat, the local council and all concerned parties, but they've done nothing to protect our children from this horrific disease.”

He added that more than a week ago, a medical team arrived in the village and were convinced about the presence of dozens of chicken pox cases, but did nothing and didn't take any of the individuals to hospitals, as they claimed to official media. The team promised to send doctors and medicine to the village, but nothing has happened thus far.

A teacher in the village said its population exceeds 1,200, yet there is no medical center, doctor, nurse or even a midwife. He also pointed out that there's no road leading to Barhan village, so consequently, the sick mostly die on the way to any hospital. “The only road we used to follow to reach our village was blocked by inhabitants of Al-Hamraa village, which overlooks the valley where our village is situated. It was a vengeance matter between the two villages.”

For their part, local and security authorities have done nothing to find a solution to the problem. The teacher added, “We are living two tragedies: one involves the blockade and the other involves the epidemic, which is spreading terribly, as the disease now has come to every house.”

He concluded, “We hear through the media that there is a Ministry of Health in Sana'a, but we've not seen its presence in our village or other neighboring villages, although we're very near to the capital.”

Situated in a valley bearing the same name, Barhan village has one school serving 250 students of both genders. The village is deprived of basic services such as clean water, health services, sewage and roads. Residents live in fear of their enemies in another village to the east, who attempt to seize any opportunity to attack them, truly living under a real siege.

Villagers even must pay the costs of the road they're building, as if not a part of Sana'a governorate, which annually receives billions for infrastructure such as building roads and offering health and other essential services to those in rural areas.

Regarding the local councils' role, villagers explained, “They've done nothing ever since we elected them to be our representatives, to adopt our concerns and issues and solve them in coordination with Sana'a authorities. They've disappointed us.”

The Yemen Times published reports quoted from various media concerning the existence of chicken pox in Barhan village and other villages inside the capital. The Minister of Health previously stated that his ministry had contained the disease or taken necessary steps to contain it.

Unfortunately, when the Yemen Times visited Barhan village and interviewed some of its residents, they were angry due to the Health Ministry's negligence toward them, alleging that the ministry manages its duties only through official media.

Chicken pox is a contagious disease that spreads rapidly amid gathering places like schools. It spreads everywhere in the world and happens at anytime, especially in spring and winter.