SANA’A (INPS | ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling for an urgent political solution to alleviate the suffering of millions of people in the country. The ICRC’s Regional Director for the Near and Middle East, Robert Mardini, says Yemen is fast-becoming one of the world’s ‘forgotten conflicts’.
The people of Yemen have suffered conflict for nine long months. Since fighting began in March 2015 more than five thousand people have been killed and more than thirty-thousand injured. Over two million have fled their homes in search of safety. Even for those who can still live at home, normal life has become virtually impossible.
In areas worst hit by the fighting, the basic infrastructure that every family needs is disappearing: damaged and deprived by war. Even hospitals, which should be safe for everyone, are affected. The ICRC estimates there have been more than 100 attacks on health care facilities since the conflict began.
“Hospitals are not the safe places that they used to be,” says Monica Arpagaus, ICRC’s outgoing health coordinator in Yemen.
“We have incidents where hospitals have been targeted and patients have been injured and staff have been killed. Drugs, medication and medical supplies have been prevented from crossing frontlines into hospitals which desperately need these supplies.”
Patients in Yemen are suffering, doctors often risk their lives to come to work. They have to treat patients in damaged buildings, with poor equipment. Often, they have no medicines to prescribe or supplies to carry out lifesaving surgery. And the conflict is causing new, and terrible injuries.
“We cannot offer patients with chronic diseases and the wounded what they need,” explains Dr. Ahmed Farhan, Emergency Doctor, at the Al-Rawda Hospital in the city of Taiz, where less than half the health facilities are still functioning.
“Specialized medicines are not available on the market,” he continues. “It pains us a lot when we cannot treat the wounded and the patients. There are cases that have died in front of us, we cannot save them.”
Right across the country health care workers are trying to cope with the worst situations imaginable: mass casualties, and war injuries which spare no one.
“As a result of us working in a border area in Saada, most injuries we get are caused by shelling, airstrikes, rockets or tanks,” says Dr. Waddah Ahmed Al-Shaa’iri from Al-Jumhouri Hospital in Saada.
“Wounds to the stomach or chest, amputation of limbs, head injuries. The injured are not only soldiers. We get a lot of children, women, men, as well as combatants. Various groups of society are wounded.”
Even when patients are treated, they are not guaranteed a respite from the conflict raging outside.
“I was injured by shelling… a grenade… a grenade,” says one elderly man. “I hope this war comes to an end and to live in peace. We are in a brutal conflict. We cannot live and feed our children.”
“I was injured by a mortar shell while I was sitting outside my house,” adds another patient. “There were many children besides me. Luckily they were not injured. I want security and stability, security and stability.”
Aid agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross are doing their best to support health care in Yemen, but reaching everyone in need is not possible.
“Since the beginning of the war, ICRC has been present. We have been one of the only organizations to be present throughout the war,” says Monica Arpagaus.
“We have been able to reach places where no other organizations has been able to reach. Despite that, there are many places we still have trouble reaching.”
The ICRC has called on those taking part in the fighting to allow medical supplies to be delivered, and to stop all attacks on health care facilities. Until that happens, in many of Yemen’s hospitals, everything will be in short supply…except wounded patients, and the dedication of the healthcare workers trying to treat them.
Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has supported 62 hospitals in 15 governorates through donations of medical and surgical supplies enabling them to treat more than 26,000 war wounded and perform over 14,900 surgeries. Emergency room trauma courses as well as a war surgery seminar have also been held for lead surgeons and medical professionals across the country. (INPS | 8 January 2016)
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For further information, please contact:
Rima Kamal, ICRC Sana’a, tel: +967 1 213844 or + 967 73 607 1967
Adnan Hizam, ICRC Sana’a, tel: + 967 73 372 1659
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 78 or +41 XXXXX
To find out what the ICRC is doing to put an end to attacks on health workers and patients, go to
or visit our website: www.icrc.org