The Ras Morbat Clinic, Aden

by Dr Harry K. Robertson, MBChB, DRCOG, DTM&H

Following the footsteps of Ion Keith Falconer, the former and present Bishops of Cyprus and the Gulf have worked hard to establish a modern clinic for mothers and children at the restored former garrison Church, Christchurch, at Steamer Point in Aden. A fine modern clinic was opened in October 1996 to serve its local population. It took a while for the message to get across that the clinic was there for the benefit of those in its vicinity, but none were turned away in the early days. Not surprisingly a large proportion of the clinic’s stock of drugs for a year were used up in a month.

The primary purpose of the clinic was and is to offer a mother and child health unit with a strong emphasis on the prevention of disease. Although it has in effect become a typical family general practice catering for all family members, the emphasis on maternity care, babies and children has been maintained, with resources being made available for what is a low-income catchment area. On a typical day between 50 and 100 patients will be seen: 70% of these are women (including maternity), babies and children; 30% are men. Women and children are seen 5 days a week, men 3 days.

Given the socioeconomic and health data for the Yemen, it is encouraging that well over 50% of infants have been immunised against tetanus, whooping cough, polio and tuberculosis before they reach their first birthday. Unfortunately this figure is not high enough to justify WHO funding immunisation against Hepatitis B, which looms as the greatest scourge of all. Given also the constraints of underfunding, the medical services in the Yemen are of the highest standards. The Ras Morbat Clinic has been most fortunate to find total cooperation and encouragement from all the health services in the region, with whom it has been a privilege to cooperate in immunisation campaigns.

The project leader is the vicar of Christchurch and chaplain to seamen, the Rev Jim Wakerley. Dr John Barclay, an adviser to the Aden medical school, also assists in the establishment and running of the clinic. The staff consists of a medical director, two nurses (one Dutch and one Swiss, both of whom speak Arabic), two receptionists and a dispenser (English). Sadly, the medical director, Dr Malcolm Dunjey from Australia, was invalided home this year with a serious surgical condition threatening his return, but a series of replacement doctors have maintained the clinic’s work in the interim.

Dr Harry K. Robertson, MBChB, DRCOG, DTM&H is Locum Medical Director, Ras Morbat Clinic

December 1997