During my recent visit to Yemen I had the opportunity to view many of the ways in which USAID is supporting development in the country. I was particularly impressed by USAID’s successful effort to provide local communities with basic medical services.
Yemen faces many challenges, but few are as daunting as providing medical care to its displaced and marginalized populations. Currently, just a quarter of rural Yemenis have access to medical care.
One way in which USAID has assisted Yemen in responding to this challenge is by developing mobile medical teams (MMTs), clinics on wheels that travel regularly to marginalized communities. USAID launched the first of its 15 MMTs in the remote governorate of Marib in February 2011.
The MMTs struggled to operate during the civil disturbances of the past year and had limited opportunities to visit local communities. But now they are back on the road. I had the pleasure of joining one such team on a sunny February morning.
It did not take long for a huge crowd to form around the MMT van when it rolled into a gray and dusty Sana’a neighborhood in the district of Sawan. A flurry of excited activity accompanied the arrival of the USAID MMT van. It was clear that these MMTs constitute a critical lifeline for many already at-risk Yemenis. The fully equipped MMT offers basic primary care, maternal and child care, diagnosis, immunization, and medications—all for free—to needy and marginalized people. On this day, however, I was told that the reappearance of the MMT vehicles after weeks without them created even more of a stir.
After a short ceremony marking the resumption of the MMT program, local men, women, and children lined up to receive basic medical services, including blood pressure readings, vaccinations for the young, and medication for the sick. I was impressed both by the warm welcome the community offered and the efficiency and effectiveness the medical team displayed.
Each month this particular MMT, staffed by two doctors, a midwife, a laboratory technician, and a driver, will serve 2,000 vulnerable community members—particularly women and children, as well as internally displaced persons who have sought refuge in Sana’a after fleeing conflict in other parts of the country.
In Washington, when we talk in sweeping terms about progress in meeting Millennium Development Goals and Global Health objectives, it is important to keep within easy reference what the MMTs and other health activities are achieving in places such as Yemen. For me, those are the best indicators that we are heading in the right direction.