No attention paid by health officials Epidemics kill dozens of children [Archives:2006/917/Front Page]

January 2 2006

By: Mohamed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Feb. 1 ) Four patients were transferred to Saber Hospital in Aden for treatment while three others were rushed to capital hospitals due to their serious conditions, local sources told media.

Three women died last Monday in the area of Al-Kaima, 50 km east of Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa, as the Ministry of Public Health and Population could not diagnose symptoms of their illness. Medical sources said their symptoms were swelling of the body and low blood pressure, which cause death.

Locals in Al-Jawf province, 520 km northeast of Sana'a, told media that two children died from xerosis symptoms while media reported 15 child deaths last Sunday and Monday from cholera.

Official media reported last Monday that the Ministry of Public Health and Population sent a medial team to curb the epidemic's spread in Khab and Sha'ath districts in Al-Jawf. Disease symptoms were diagnosed by the spread of severe diarrhea among children in the two districts. Medical sources stating that the ministry was informed of the deaths of 10 children, retracted and said only five cases were reported.

Locals in epidemic-affected districts were surprised at different media outlets reporting that the ministry had controlled the disease. They said they had not seen any medical campaigns in their areas in past weeks, claiming that government media discussed areas that may not exist in Yemen.


Minister of Public Health and Population, Dr. Mohamed Yahya Al-Numi, affirmed Wednesday that the anti-child polio campaign's first round immunized 72 percent of children under age 5 on Tuesday, the last vaccination day, according to preliminary field reports in targeted governorates.

Some media outlets mentioned that the polio campaign encountered problems convincing Dhamar province locals to vaccinate their children for the second consecutive year. Some Dhamar residents stopped vaccinating their children because of a fatwa by a Wahabi Sheikh who advocated boycotting vaccination since it is unclean and comes from the West. The sheikh's fatwa led to depriving hundreds of Dhamar children of the vaccination last year.

Mohamed Bin Abdullah Al-Imam, Sheikh of Dar Al-Hadith in Ma'aber and a prominent Salafi hardliner, abandoned his former viewpoint on the polio vaccination. He accepted it, calling on parents to immunize their children against the epidemic. He described international support in launching the vaccination campaign as a type of cooperation in this regard.

In a letter to his fellow countrymen, Al-Imam said, “We investigated the vaccination and concluded that it is clean medicine and there is no reason why children should not take it.” Vaccination teams in Dhamar photocopied the letter and distributed it to those refusing to vaccinate their children.


In a statement published by Al-Sahwa Net last Wednesday, Dr. Najib Ghanem, head of Parliament's Health and Population Committee, held the Ministry of Public Health and Population accountable for the country's deteriorating health care. “Yemen recently experienced the proliferation of numerous epidemics in more than one area, climaxed with the spread of shigellosis in Al-Jawf province,” he noted.

Shigellosis is a bacterial disease infecting the large intestine and the lower small intestine. It is caused by the shigellosis bacillus, which inflates the mucus membrane resulting in pain that may reach the stomach. The disease is diagnosed in different parts throughout the world including tropical and cold areas.

Estimated annual deaths from shigellosis worldwide are 600,000, with more deaths among children under age 10. The disease rarely spreads among breastfed infants under six months old. The disease's microbe is transmitted via contaminated food, drink and dairy. It also is communicated through polluted hands and fingernails following excretion.

According to Ghanem, the spread of such epidemics reflects an infringement by the ministry. He commented that the ministry appears incapable of supplying the country's necessary medical equipment, and even if supplied, the equipment is not employed in a good manner.

The parliamentary committee visited Al-Jawf, discovering that it lacked preliminary healthcare and medical services, Ghanem reported. “The committee was surprised when it found the province's main hospital closed.”

Professor of Medical Sciences at Sana'a University, Ghanem said shigellosis doesn't kill except if the patient is ignored. He explained that it causes severe diarrhea that claims children's lives unless they receive intensive care.

A local Al-Jawf official blamed the governor for being indifferent to curbing the shigellosis epidemic scourging the Khab and Al-Sha'ath districts. Ali Al-Aji said Al-Jawf's governor has not taken serious action to curb the epidemic, as if it does not concern him.