Irish nurse in Yemen: ‘Women here are stronger than people imagine’

Irish nurse Avril Patterson spent four years working in Syria before moving to Yemen last year.

She has grown accustomed to working in conflict zones and emergency situations having also spent time in Kenya, Liberia and Afghanistan.

However, the health emergency unfolding in Yemen, a nation suffering from a humanitarian disaster and devastated by four years of war, can feel overwhelming, she says.

“It all comes back to health,” Ms Patterson told The Irish Times from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

“The fact that there’s extreme poverty in this country, if people cannot eat, their health will be affected; if they don’t have access to drinking water, of course, cholera becomes a massive problem.

“In Yemen first and foremost it’s about survival. People want to feel safe. Then they want food, water and shelter.”

Ms Patterson, who trained in Belfast City Hospital, has spent the past eight months leading the International Committee of the Red Cross’s health programme in Yemen.