Yemen: Living in a minefield

Land mines in Taiz and Hodeidah governorates

Yemen 2018 © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

Thousands of land mines and improvised explosive devices are killing and maiming civilians in southwestern Yemen.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) set up a hospital in the city of Mocha, in Taïz Governorate, in August 2018, to perform emergency surgery for people suffering war wounds and women suffering complications during pregnancy. From August to December 2018, MSF teams in Mocha treated more than 150 people wounded by mines, improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance—one-third of them children, who had been playing in fields.

Nasser, 14


Yemen: Land mines take heavy toll on civilians

Nasser (center) and his father Mohammed (left) in one of the inpatient wards at MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha.
YEMEN 2018 © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

On December 7, Nasser was tending his sheep with his uncle and cousin when he walked on a land mine. Nasser and his uncle were injured in the blast. Nasser needed a right foot amputation but because of a previous thumb amputation, using crutches has been difficult.

Nasser tries to get his balance on his new crutches.

Amarah, 8

Amarah holds her grandmother's hand as she recovers from her injuries.

Last month, Amarah was playing with friends around their sheep field near Dubba, Mocha district. Amarah saw an object with numbers—when she touched it, the land mine exploded. The explosion injured all four children, killing one of them. Amarah was evacuated on the back of a donkey. She was eventually transferred to MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha. She has multiple injuries on the right side of her face, her abdomen, and her left leg. “We know there are mines in the area but we don’t exactly know where,” says her family. 

Youssef Ahmad, 18

Red tape around Youssef's bed indicates an infection that requires specific antibiotics.

Youssef was injured by a land mine explosion while driving near Hodeidah. He was transferred to MSF’s surgical hospital in Mocha, where he had his right forearm amputated. He was then referred to MSF's trauma hospital in Aden to undergo a laparotomy to remove shrapnel from his abdomen. 

Sultan Ahmad, 35

Sultan with medical staff in MSF's Mocha surgical hospital.

Sultan lives in Waze'yah in Taïz Governorate. A baker, he is married with three daughters and two sons. On December 2, he went to Mocha city markets to buy food and qat. “Someone walked on an explosive device, maybe a land mine, in the market, I heard a strong blast.” Six people were killed, among them Sultan’s neighbor. Sultan was injured by shrapnel in his right foot and his abdomen.

Ali, 18

Physiotherapist Farouk (left) helps Ali with his injuries.

Ali, a teenager from a small village in a rural and very poor area near Mawza, was wounded two months ago when he stepped on a land mine in a field near his house. His right leg was amputated under his knee, compounding difficulties he had with a weak left leg due to polio in childhood. He now comes to MSF's hospital in Mocha for physiotherapy twice a week.

MSF's surgical hospital in Mocha

In the emergency room of MSF's surgical hospital in Mocha, anesthetist Elma Wong (center) checks on a patient suffering from a head injury.

Not a day goes by without war-wounded people like Nasser, Amarah, Youssef, Sultan, and Ali arriving at MSF’s hospital in Mocha from the frontlines between Taiz and Hodeidah.

A child injured by a land mine in Mawza is checked by anesthetist Elma Wong.

Aden, where MSF opened a specialist trauma hospital in 2012, is almost 280 miles from Hodeidah. Although there is medical care available in Aden, most Yemenis don’t have the money to pay for treatment or the transport to travel there.

It takes six to eight hours to drive to Aden from Hodeidah. The area between the two cities has become a medical wasteland for the people who live there.

MSF's surgical hospital in Mocha

MSF’s hospital in Mocha is the only facility in the region with an operating theater and the capacity to perform surgery.