A few days ago there was a janazah, or funeral prayer, at the masjid nearest to our house. The men lined up in rows and prayed over the tiny shrouded figure, then they followed as the body was carried to the nearby graveyard for interment. My son noticed a large number of non-Yemenis in the procession, and after making a call we discovered that a young American sister had miscarried and the funeral was for her baby. It reminded me of just how uncertain life truly is…this is true anywhere, but here in one of the poorest countries in the Middle East the reality is surely harsher.
While it has improved over the last decade or so, the infant and mother mortality rate here is one of the highest in the world. According to T.S. Sunil and Vijayan Pillai in their work, “Women’s Reproductive Health in Yemen”,
“This includes a mortality rate of 102 per 1,000 live births for children under 5 years old in 2003. From the late 1980s through the late 1990s, Yemen experienced a high maternal mortality ratio of 351 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal deaths account for about 42% of all deaths among Yemeni women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine.”
These figures, which are alarming in the abstract, are simply devastating when seen on the ground, when the reality behind the numbers takes the form of a little shrouded form, or a small newly dug grave. Some of us coming here from the West seem to think that we will somehow be immune from this, but sadly this is not the case, as was seen here this week.
I have had three babies here, and experienced few complications with their births- but I took a proactive role in this, making sure I ate well, took vitamins, used herbal allies, and monitored my situation closely. However, I know women who lost babies soon after birth due to simple mistakes made by the midwives such as not dealing with a baby breathing in fluid, or not noticing a birth defect that could be dealt with by someone with knowledge. Older children are not safe from this type of thing either- one of our neighbors lost a two or three year old son to diarrhea. He awoke sick in the morning, and by nightfall they were praying over his body.
All of this is from the will of Allaah, and all we can do is do the best we can to prevent such things, and ultimately pray for His mercy. However, I can’t help but think how all the time, effort, and money being spent in the protests in Sana’a would be better spent dealing with matters crucial to the every day lives of the Yemeni people, such as education and programs regarding health and hygiene, and designing and implementing plans to deal with sewage and water treatment. Conditions in Sana’a and other parts of the country have deteriorated significantly in the months since the protests began, with medical supplies becoming scarce and hospitals losing staff, as well as fuel shortages and black outs occurring regularly. I have been told that it is dangerous to travel almost anywhere in the city, as one never knows when a fight or riot will occur. I remember the wild taxi ride I took through the almost deserted early morning streets of the city when I went to the Mother’s Hospital to have Mu’aadh- I don’t imagine such a thing would even be possible in Sana’a under the present conditions.
I simply hope that when all of these protests are over and the dust settles, the people who end up in charge will take the time to remember the women and children who have suffered so much, and who deserve so much better.
For more on the protests read:
For more on the infant mortality rate read: