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Interview with Dr Mariam Aldogani Start Network Program Manager in Yemen

  • by Helen James
  • 23 Jan 18

Four year-old Rima has been treated and vaccinated by Save the Children, she is responding well to treatment


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Interview with Dr Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children's Hudaydah Field Manager and Start Network Program Manager in Yemen.

“I am so worried. I am so worried. We do not even have a testing center. All of the cases we have treated are suspected. None have been confirmed. Imagine that.

"Hudaydah has the second highest rate in Yemen. It is sad but not surprising. In this conflict, the people who are the most abused and isolated suffer the most. Bait Alfaqeh has the highest amount of cases of diphtheria like it does with cholera and did with measles and malaria.

"Most people in Yemen have not been vaccinated. We don’t even have the stockpile of vaccines in country. Not the type needed for this kind of outbreak. We have routine children all in one, or multi group vaccines that inoculate against rubella, measles and Diphtheria and it is designed for children under two years old. What are we meant to do with that? The blockade makes it so hard to get the medicine we need.


Save the Children launches a series of diphtheria vaccination campaigns for children in Yemen.

"Diphtheria is so contagious it’s spread through air droplets. When we do vaccinate we have to inoculate the household and the seven surrounding houses. That is how infectious diphtheria is. It is not being taken seriously enough.

"We have some funding, thank goodness but it is not enough to save the lives of all the people that are infected. Do you know what 24 hours means? Money, and we do not have the budget to support it. The Isolation centers need staff, equipment and medical specialists not general practitioners.

"We need cardiologists and renal EMTs; diphtheria attacks your heart and kidneys. We need ventilators. When our beneficiaries come to our clinics and isolation centers it’s usually at the advanced stages of the infection and we do not have the capacity to help them so some of them die.

"I cried with a mother yesterday (Wednesday 10th). Her eldest daughter died. They came too late. There was nothing else I could do. Sometimes I feel useless.

"We receive cases from Hajja and Rayma governorates because Save the Children has the most effective program in country thanks to the Start Network and our campaigning is working. People mostly children in the late stages of the infection travel to our locations but because of how infectious diphtheria is it is likely they infected many people on the way here.

"Diphtheria is spreading and unless we take a lot of action now, the death toll will be unimaginable.

"This is why we need funding to support incentives, for operational costs, community mobilization and capacity building.

"The Start Network could really help by providing funds to run our isolation centers 24 hours a day. We need the money to attract the specialists; we need medical equipment and vaccines suited for this outbreak before it is too late."

This interview was conducted by Save the Children as part of it's Start Fund response to diphtheria in Yemen.

The Start Fund is a pooled fund which is backed by UK Aid, the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgian Development Cooperation and the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department. It provides rapid financing to underfunded small to medium scale crises, spikes in chronic humanitarian crises, and to act in anticipation of impending crises, filling a critical gap in humanitarian financing.

View the active alert for Diphtheria in Yemen
Read more about the Start Fund

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  • by Helen James