APRIL 10, 2015—Since March 19, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Yemen have provided emergency treatment to more than 800 war-wounded people.
Others may be unable to seek aid due to the blockage of major access roads leading to medical facilities, attacks on Ministry of Health ambulances, and the killing of Red Crescent staff. Scores of injured people have been left lying in the street for hours because sniper fire and intense street fighting prevents responders from reaching them.
Response Centered in the South
More than 600 people have received treatment in the MSF hospital in the southern city of Aden, where Houthi forces, forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and groups supporting President Abed Rabbuh Mansur Hadi are involved in fighting. Aerial and naval bombing from a coalition of countries backing Hadi is compounding the dangers that people face, while pitched battles take place inside the city.
MSF staff members are responding to repeated mass casualty events in which as many as 100 injured people have arrived at the hospital simultaneously. The team in Aden has faced several waves of mass casualties over the last three weeks. However, while they received more than 550 injured patients between March 19 and March 31, fewer than 100 injured patients could make it to the hospital in the first week of April because of an escalation of violence.
Testimony from Nabeel Bassem, Pharmacist Assistant, Aden
April 15, 2015
When the clashes started on March 19, I was at the hospital. My house was just in front of where the clashes were taking place. I could only go home at 9:00 in the evening, and when I arrived at home my wife and two children were in a state of panic as they were all alone. The clashes were heavy. I was facing a dilemma and didn’t know what to do the next day. Should I stay with them or go to the hospital?
I was worried about them every time I went to the hospital. I didn’t want to leave them, but doing my job meant that I had to do.
We received many mass casualties. My presence was necessary all the time, as I had to provide the necessary materials from the pharmacy. Even though we are well prepared, the high number of injured meant that I had to run to the hospital pharmacy to bring more essential supplies for the doctors. We were working all day at the hospital, and when I would go home, it was not calm there either, as we would hear the sounds of gun shots.
One day, as I was going to my home—which I had recently rented nearby, so I was not well known to everyone in the neighborhood—I was stopped by some gunmen near my home and they pointed their guns at me. Then an old man recognized me and so they let me pass. After this incident I took my family to Abyan governorate, where my relatives live. I felt that they would be okay there, as there would be someone to take care of them. I was scared on the way back, but thankfully I arrived safely to Aden and I am now back at the hospital.
More than 150 people have also been treated in two MSF emergency projects in Ad Dhale Governorate, where MSF continues to run an ambulance service to transport wounded people across the front line. After a period of calm over the weekend, violence has again increased in the area.
Medical Support in the North
MSF is supporting the hospital in the town of Haradh, where 34 injured people were taken following an airstrike on Al Mazraq displacement camp on March 30. MSF has also successfully flown an additional surgeon to the capital, Sana’a, to join MSF’s project in the town of Khamer, in Amran Governorate, and strengthen surgical capacity in the north of the country. In Sana’a itself, MSF is providing supplies to the Al Jumhoori Hospital, where it continues its regular HIV project.
More Supplies and Staff Needed Urgently
With humanitarian needs escalating rapidly, MSF is working relentlessly to get more medical supplies and staff into Yemen. On April 8, one MSF boat successfully crossed from Djibouti to Aden with 1.7 tons of supplies to replenish stocks at the MSF Emergency Surgical Unit in Aden. A second boat, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, brought an additional MSF surgical team into the city. The team immediately started working upon arrival at the MSF hospital.
MSF currently has 558 staff members in Yemen. MSF first worked in Yemen in 1986 and has been working continuously in the country since 2007. MSF currently runs medical projects in Sana’a, Amran, Aden, and Ad Dhale governorates and provides medical aid to different parts of the country during emergencies.