ADEN, YEMEN—Amid ongoing shelling in the Yemeni port city of Aden, hospitals are overwhelmed as civilians come under increasing fire, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which treated more than 100 people injured in shelling yesterday.
Among the wounded treated at MSF’s facility in Aden yesterday were women and children who came under heavy shelling in the Al-Basateen residential area. Many people were struck attending a funeral. The mass casualty incident comes amid a deteriorating situation in Aden, with shortages of essential items, and patients and medical providers often unable to move.
"Hospitals in Aden are full—some are placing mattresses in front of their front gates to accommodate patients," said Thierry Goffeau, MSF project coordinator in Aden. "Daily fighting and airstrikes are still heavy and we are concerned for patients who are unable to access care, while patients who are already in hospitals are too scared to leave."
MSF is independently running an emergency surgical unit within the Al-Sadaqa Hospital compound in the Sheikh Othman district of Aden. MSF is also supporting Crater Health Center and is operating outpatient mobile surgical clinics for patients unable to access the MSF hospital. Moving to different parts of the city is extremely difficult.
Over the last 36 hours, MSF has received a total of more than 130 wounded patients in Aden. Shells landed very close to the MSF hospital this morning. The hospital has been struck by numerous bullets, and shrapnel has landed in the hospital courtyard. A shell landed within 30 meters of MSF staff members trying to move through the city yesterday.
"Our teams have been blocked on many occasions from moving within the city and from receiving shipments of medical aid from the port," said Goffeau. "We need to be granted free access to be able to provide medical care to those who need it."
Since March 19, MSF has received more than 2,500 injured patients throughout Yemen, including more than 1,800 in Aden alone. Civilians in the city are not only suffering injuries from the fighting, but are also cut off and surrounded by front lines.
"There are shortages of food, cooking gas, fuel, and drugs," said Hassan Boucenine, MSF head of mission in Yemen. "The health system is collapsing. Patients with chronic diseases cannot get their drugs, bodies are in the streets, and the city is an open dump with trash covering the streets. It is extremely important to lift the blockade on food and medication and to set up unobstructed channels for air, sea, and land access, to provide the population with what they need to survive," he said.
Civilian casualties and damage to civilian structures following airstrikes and shelling on densely populated areas have also occurred recently in Sana'a, Hodeidah, Taiz, Saada, Amran, Ad-Dhale, and elsewhere.
In Taiz, 57 wounded patients were treated yesterday at a hospital supported by MSF, including a six-year-old boy who sustained a head injury when a shell landed outside his home while he was playing. Three shells also landed in close proximity to the hospital last night, causing damage.
Over the last week, the MSF team in Saada has received three waves of mass casualties, with 137 people injured and 17 dead upon arrival, including civilians.
"It is totally unacceptable that bombs from all sides of the conflict are directed at areas where there is a concentration of civilians," said Boucenine. "We call on all parties to respect the safety of civilians and the neutrality of medical facilities and personnel, and to allow the population unhindered access to medical assistance. We expect this to be given important consideration at the upcoming peace talks."
MSF is a neutral international medical organization providing health care in more than 70 countries. In Yemen, MSF works in Aden, Sana'a, Al-Dhale', Amran, Sa'ada, Taiz, and Hajja governorates. MSF is an independent organization that receives its funding from private individuals around the world.