Many rural Yemenis live in isolated villages, hours from medical assistance. Knowledge of health issues in rural areas is still very limited. As a consequence, there are regular outbreaks of diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera, and periodic outbreaks of polio, Rift Valley fever, and bird flu. More than half the population (living in the foothills and along the coast) is prone to malaria, which causes 30,000 deaths a year. There are just over 2,000 reported cases of HIV/AIDS, although the regional office of the World Health Organization estimates the actual figure to be 23,000 (2009), of which only 237 receive treatment.
Yemeni women have for decades been the most fertile of the world, producing more than seven children on average. This figure has now dropped to 4.7 percent, due to continuing efforts by a broad coalition of political, religious, and tribal leaders to emphasize the advantages of the nuclear family. The use of contraceptives has risen from 10 percent to 25 percent in the last decade. Maternal death has dropped from 1.4 percent to 0.3 percent, as skilled health-care workers are now present at one in every four births. This latter is nearly double the figure of 1990, thanks to the training of thousands of midwives. Child mortality (under five years) has dropped from 142 per 1,000 in 1990 to 78 in 2009, of whom 68 were infants.
About half of all Yemeni children are underweight and a third severely stunted due to malnutrition. The widespread and increasing use of qat harms health, as it suppresses hunger, which results in eating and sleeping disorders. Furthermore, the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides in qat cultivation has led to numerous health problems. Life expectancy for Yemeni women is 67 and for men 63, which is exactly the regional average but below world averages (71 and 68).
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