Archive | February, 2011

Yemen poorest women and children involved in six-year plan

28 Feb
The Ministry of Health project aims to help women and children in rural areas and provide family planning advice. Frequent pregnancy contributes to Yemen’s high child mortality rate.

Malak ShaherPublished:28-02-2011

SANA’A, Feb.27 – A six- year plan by the Yemeni Ministry of Health and Population will involve a million of Yemen’s poorest women and children from rural areas, according to Ali Jahaf, general manager of the Department of Family Health.

The project, approved by the World Bank, will cost USD 35 million and be implemented over the next six years.

“Yemeni women in remote areas need help,” said Jahaf. “The project will involve the poorest women and children in six governorates over the six coming years.”

According to the World Bank the child mortality rate in Yemen is 69 deaths to every 1,000 live births, the highest rate in the Middle East and North Africa region. Yemen also has the second-highest rate in the world of child malnutrition for height and age. Maternal mortality is the second highest in the Middle East with 210 deaths for each 1,000 live births according to 2008 figures.

The project will be initiated in the remote areas of Sana’a this year and extend to other areas with the highest concentration of poor health indicators. It will involve the governorates of Ibb, Reima, Al-Dhale’, Al-Baydha and the slums of Aden. The project will also including the remote areas of these governorates after the six years.

Jahaf said that the ministry aims to send small medical teams consisting of: a doctor, a midwife, social worker and a person to register their findings of the field visits.

The visits, which will be held four times a year, will target pregnant women and their children under the age of five and will provide them with basic medication, vaccinations and awareness campaigns for family planning, added Jahaf.


Yemeni fishermen freed from pirates after three months captivity

21 Feb
Somali pirates caught by the HMS Cornwall. The Yemeni boat and its crew were captured in November 2010. (AFP)
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times
Yemen Times
SANA’A, Feb. 20 — The British navy rescued five Yemeni fishermen, kidnapped three months ago by pirates, the Yemeni Ministry of Defense announced on their website.The British warship, HMS Cornwall handed the crew over to the Coast Guard Authority (CGA) in Al-Mukalla on the Arabian Sea on Feb.9 after they were found in the Indian Ocean.HMS Cornwall’s commanding officer, Commander David Wilkinson, said: “Our presence in the area has had a hugely significant effect on the lives of five Yemeni fishermen, who have been freed from over three months of pirate captivity and can now return to their families,” according to the Daily Mail news website.A South Korean merchant vessel spotted the Somali dhow acting suspiciously in the Indian Ocean and alerted HMS Cornwall.

According to Al-Mahdi, head of the CGA operational unit, the fishermen told them that they were used by the pirates as human shields and had been using their vessel as a mother ship to conduct piracy operations.

The ministry noted that guns, seized from the pirates, were handed over to the Yemeni authorities. The boat, Al-Hobaishi, was also handed over with its crew. The navy is still holding the pirates and rocket-propelled grenades used to attack ships.

Egyptian fishing boat caught illegally fishing in Yemeni waters

The Yemeni Coast Guard Authority and the Marine Navy Forces last week caught an Egyptian boat, fishing illegally in Yemeni waters in the Red Sea.

According to Shuja’ Al-Deen Al-Mahdi, head of the Coast Guard Authority operational unit in Sana’a, the 37m vessel was carrying tons of fish when its 23 crew when captured. The crew was handed over to Yemeni authorities in Hodeida and the vessel – the Taj Al-Islam or Crown of Islam – impounded under the control of the Ministry of Fisheries.

Al-Mahdi said that this was not the first time Egyptian boats had been caught illegally fishing in Yemeni waters in the Red sea. Deputy Minister of Fisheries, Abdulla Ba-Sanabel said Egyptian fishermen are being tried by a court in Hodeida and can face fines from USD 50,000 or seizure of their vessel by the Yemeni authorities.

According to Ba-Sanabel, the Ministry of Fisheries stopped granting fishing licenses in the Red Sea to non-Yemeni fishermen in 2010, because of damage to the marine environment.

“The Ministry of Fishery has stopped granting any vessels the right to fish in the Red Sea in order to grant the marine creatures a biological rest,” Ba-Sanabel told the Yemen Times.

The Yemeni Ministry of Fisheries still allows vessels to fish in the waters of the Arabian Sea with limits on distance and range. It has stopped fishing in the Red Sea in preparation for it to become a naturally preserved marine area.

Antifungal medicine can cause liver toxicity

17 Feb
Nizoral or Ketoconazole, which kills fungi, is reported to have direct serious side effects on the liver. Arguments between the Yemeni Society for Consumer Protection and the Supreme Board of Drugs and Medical Appliances have been raised. The society calls on the board to ban it. Currently, the medication is still on the market and sold for YR 2,900 or USD 14.
photo by Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


SANA’A, Feb. 16 — The Yemeni Society for Consumer Protection (YSCP) announced on Saturday that a medicine used for fungal infections may cause liver damage.According to the YSCP, the medication Ketoconazole (brand name Nizoral) which is taken orally for fungal infections does treat the infection, but causes direct side effects on the liver.The warning announcement stated that Nizoral may cause serious side effects after one to four weeks of usage, according to the Saudi Authority for Nutrition and Medication.Fungi can cause infection in the scalp, body, face, hands, groin, under the nails and in between the toes or fingers. Ketoconazole kills fungi and yeast by stopping them from producing a substance which is an essential component of fungal cell membranes.Dr. Hussein Al-Muntasser, consultant of dermatology, told the Yemen Times that he has never prescribed Ketoconazole for his patients as it has serious side effects on the liver.

“If this medicine is taken for a prolonged time, it may cause liver toxicity or liver poisoning. Thus, I do not recommend doctors to prescribe it for their patients with fungal infection,” said Al-Muntaser.

Al-Muntaser explained that the medicine has only slight side effects if the patient uses one tablet a one month. However, he said that Nizoral should never be the solution for fungal infections as there are safe alternatives that have no side effects on the liver.

He said that Itraconazole (brand name Sporanox) and Fluconazole (brand name Flucan or Diflucan) are safer alternatives to treat fungal infection over a longer time without having side effects on the liver.

“When a man comes to me with fungi in his feet due to a serious injury, it means that he needs an anti-fungal medication for a long time. Definitely Nizoral is not the treatment.”

YSCP has released the announcement to TV stations, magazines and newspapers warning consumers not to use the medication because of its serious side effects. Al-Thawra newspaper published the announcement about Nizoral’s side effects on the liver three days ago.

However, according to Dr. Najeeb Saif, head of the Supreme Board of Drugs and Medical Appliances (SBDMA) at the Ministry of Health and Population, the medication is like any other medication, that if taken in excess, it may have side effects on the body.

“We [SBDMA] have sent a letter to Al-Thawra newspaper telling them that the warning they published is only for doctors to say that they should take care when they prescribe the medicine for patients,” said Saif.

He added that the medicine is approved by the American Food and Drug Authority and that it is not dangerous to the health. However, it should only be used for a short time period with limited conditions when the case is critical.

Nevertheless, the YSCP said that they had seen research by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority showing that the medicine is directly affecting one in 10,000 cases.

The website netdoctor recommends that Nizoral only be given after a blood test to test that the liver is functioning well. Regular blood tests should be done every two weeks in order to make sure that there are no serious side effects on the body and the liver in particular.

Nizoral should be immediately stopped when the patient develops symptoms of vomiting, unexpected itching, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, dark urine or the development of yellow coloring to the skin.

Nizoral cream and shampoo, medical cosmetics that are used for external proposes, do not pose any danger to the liver.

Preachers to help remove stigma against HIV and AIDS

17 Feb
The AIDS international symbol statue in Sana’a (above) has been built to remind people that premarital sex is forbidden in Islam. However, AIDS and HIV are contracted by many other means other than sex. In both cases, society should not shun infected people, according to physicians and Muslim preachers.YT Photo by Malak ShaherMalak ShaherPublished:17-02-2011

For Ali Al-Mohamadi, a man in his mid-fifties, shaking hands with someone infected with HIV or AIDS is impossible. He believes that he may be infected if he does and eventually die with the stigma of having had sex with a prostitute.In a conservative country like Yemen, there is a stigma surrounding those with HIV or AIDS that they were infected by having sex with a prostitute. However, a large percentage of Yemen’s population does not know that there are other ways of being infected with the HIV virus.

In order to remove this stigma and spread awareness among the Yemeni people, the Progressio organization is conducting training for 50 preachers, both men and women. The preachers will spread awareness among people that HIV and AIDS are infections that should not be stigmatized and that those infected are normal people who have the right to live a decent and a good life.

The organization officially launched this project in Yemen on Feb. 13 in Sana’a, though they have been working towards this launch since April 2010. Progressio, which was formerly known as ICD, is a UK-based international non-governmental organization operating in 11 countries around the world.

“We will conduct a training course in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Population and the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance to remove the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS so that these people can live a normal life,” said Wondimo Guyassa, the organization’s HIV and AIDS coordinator in Sana’a.

In a video by Progressio, Sameer, a young man infected with HIV from the Hodeida governorate, said that he was losing hope in life as people around him refused to even talk to him.

“Life started to be darker when I was told I was infected with HIV. People here cannot live anymore with people like me, as they believe that they cannot live with HIV infected people as the disease may be contagious,” said Sameer in the video.

Much to his surprise, Sameer received a phone call from Progressio. Now Sameer is delivering lectures on how to conduct a normal life for newly HIV infected people. “Now, I can feel the beauty of life as I am part of the society,” he added.

The first HIV case in Yemen was diagnosed in 1987, according to Ministry of Health and Population reports. The number of HIV cases increased to 2,564 by the end of 2008. In the Hodeida governorate, where Sameer delivers his lectures, there are 169 cases of HIV. In Sana’a, there are 367 cases, 183 in Aden and 273 cases in Taiz.

According to Islamic preacher Sheikh Jabri Ibrahim, those infected with HIV and AIDS should be treated well by society, because if there is an ongoing stigma against them, they may hide their infection and this may be worse for society in terms of health.

“A few years ago I received a phone call from a woman who had been infected with HIV from her husband. He prevented her from going to hospital as the “secret” would be exposed and people would know that he is carrying the virus.”

Almost 80 percent of women get the virus from their husbands and a large number of those women are prevented from visiting a hospital because of the stigma of having HIV, according to Ibrahim, who also works in the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance.

Ibrahim said that even if a person has been infected with HIV via sexual intercourse, Islam urges people to forgive them and live with them.

In a country like Yemen, with an almost entirely Muslim population, preachers have a strong impact on people’s opinions, and they can play an important role in removing the stigma surrounding those infected with HIV and AIDS.

“HIV is not only a health problem in Yemen, it is also related to the society, as Yemenis reject infected people and ignore that these young people are still part of society and can be productive,” said Fawzya Gharama, UNAIDS representative in Yemen. “We should not neglect these people as the more people that hide their infection, the greater the increase of infected people in Yemen.”

The course is part of a project to reduce the number of HIV and AIDS infections, reduce cases of death from the infection, and remove the stigma of having the infection.

The project is funded by the European Union at a cost of EUR 405,500 (about YR 117 million) and will last until 2014. It will contribute to three non-government associations in Sana’a, Aden and Hodeida. The project directly targets 10,000 people and 50,000 indirectly.

Other than the preachers, the organization will also train hotel employees, fishermen, refugees, and employees in the health sector. It also targets young people from vulnerable demographics and most-at-risk population groups.

Piracy: a growing problem for Yemen

10 Feb
A Somali pirate holding a machine gun after hijacking a Malaysian ship in 2009. The ship was returned after a ransom was paid. Since 2009 Yemen has refused to receive any pirates caught by international naval forces. photo: Coast Guard Authority
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times
SANA’A, Feb. 9 – Pirates attacking ships in international waters are becoming a growing problem for Yemen as captured men cannot be tried in Yemeni courts when arrested by international forces.Yemen is unable to try pirates who operate outside its regional waters. In addition the process of receiving and trying the captured men is extremely costly, according to Shuja’ Al-Deen Al-Mahdi, head of the operational unit of the Coast Guard Authority (CGA) in Sana’a.Al-Mahdi told the Yemen Times that pirates are avoiding Yemeni regional waters due to the high presence of international naval ships deployed to protect shipping from attacks. Yemen detained 62 pirates during 2008 and 2009. While some were tried, others are still awaiting the Yemeni courts’ decisions, according to the CGA head.“The pirates these days are trying to play hide-and-seek with us,” said Al-Mahdi. “The more we try to catch them and control piracy, the more they go far away and hijack ships from waters not protected.”

An Italian oil tanker was attacked by five Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday evening, according to Al-Mahdi. The ship, Savina Caylyn, was sailing from Sudan to Singapore carrying a load of crude oil and 22 crew. The pirates took control of the ship and are reportedly heading to the Somali coast.

Al-Mahdi explained that if the owners of the hijacked ships fail to pay the ransom, the pirates eventually use the captured vessels as ‘mother ships’ from which to launch further attacks.

According to Aesh Awwas, from the Sheba Center for Strategic Studies in Saba’a, there are no specific laws covering the trial of pirates caught outside of Yemen.

“Piracy in international waters has created a problem for Yemen as the country is not responsible for Somali pirates hijacking ships outside its waters,” said Awwas.

Yemen stopped detaining and trying Somali pirates submitted by international forces in 2009. These pirates were attacking ships in non-Yemeni regional waters, according to the CGA.

The Penal Court in Al-Mukalla, two weeks ago, sentenced twelve Somalis to thirteen years in jail for conducting piracy attacks in Yemeni and international waters.

International Maritime Organization

At a meeting of the International Maritime Organization in the UK last week, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said that the escalating problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia is completely “unacceptable”.

The only long-term solution to the Somali piracy problem is to restore law and order in Somalia, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In 2011 the IMO plans to build on efforts to tackle the problem through information-sharing centers, which will be established in Yemen and Kenya and Tanzania.