Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Yemen: medical teams struggle to save lives amidst increasing violence

Publisher International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Publication Date 9 December 2011
Cite as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Yemen: medical teams struggle to save lives amidst increasing violence, 9 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ee5b9192.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

People continue to die in Yemen, despite the agreement between the government and opposition. Escalating violence in Taiz and elsewhere is hitting medical and other essential services. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Yemen Red Crescent are doing their utmost to save lives.

The ICRC urges all those involved in the violence to protect medical staff, vehicles and facilities, and to refrain from harming them or impeding their work. In particular, it reminds all concerned that it is illegal to attack medical facilities that are simply treating the sick and wounded, and that everyone must allow these facilities to provide treatment for anyone and everyone who needs it.

Intense fighting is affecting every street and every home in Taiz, Yemen's third-largest city. Explosions have rocked Taiz daily for several weeks, and fighting has left dozens killed or injured in the last few days alone.

"The outbreak of violence in Taiz has worsened the humanitarian situation in the city," said Eric Marclay, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. "Safe access to basic services is getting increasingly difficult, bringing daily life to a near standstill. Fighting has closed many of the shops that provide basic necessities and has blocked roads. Moving around most of the city is highly dangerous."

First responders risk their lives to save others

"Tragically, some of those who have died would have lived if fighters had allowed ambulances to take them to hospital. In addition, medical facilities have been hit on several occasions," said Marclay. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for the injured to obtain treatment, and attacks on ambulances mean that even the journey to hospital can be fatal, both for patients and for first-aiders."

Camillo Oscar Avogadri is coordinating ICRC health operations in Yemen. "Yemen Red Crescent and other medical teams are working around the clock to retrieve the injured and provide first aid on the spot," he explained. "This is getting harder with every day that passes, especially since there is rarely a moment of calm. To make matters worse, people are afraid to go to hospital for treatment, as some hospitals were damaged during fighting in recent weeks. The fact that hospitals are suffering damage is very frightening, both for medical staff and for patients. Nowhere seems to be safe anymore," he added.

The ICRC has dispatched a medical team and medical supplies to Taiz, and ICRC doctors are helping Yemeni colleagues to perform dozens of what are often complex operations on patients with gunshot and other weapon wounds.

ICRC provides food, medicines and water despite obstacles

Thousands in the village of Dammaj, in the northern governorate of Sa'ada, have no access to essential commodities, including medicines. The ICRC's Yemen delegation head explains: "The ICRC finally got into Dammaj at the beginning of December. This meant we could provide essential humanitarian assistance, including food and medical items, and facilitate the transfer of several casualties to a hospital in Sa'ada city."

People in the district of Arhab, in the north of Sana'a governorate, are in dire need of medical care and other assistance. The ICRC is currently unable to enter this area, and is talking to the all concerned with a view to obtaining access.

In the southern governorate of Abyan, the ICRC has stepped up deliveries of food, medical supplies and water to people affected by fighting

ICRC and National Societies provide vital care for the injured

  • In Sana'a, Yemen Red Crescent volunteers supported by the ICRC administered first aid to over 2,000 casualties, transferred serious cases to health-care facilities and retrieved at least 17 bodies.
  • In Taiz, the German Red Cross provided support for 30 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers who administered first aid to nearly 300 casualties and transferred 18 bodies to hospitals.
  • In Abyan, al-Dhale' and Aden, the ICRC supported Yemen Red Crescent volunteers who administered first aid to over 100 casualties and retrieved six bodies. It also provided first-aid supplies for these Red Crescent branches, and helped the al-Dhale' and Aden branches train over 80 people in first aid.
  • An ICRC surgical team performed dozens of operations at several hospitals in Aden, Amran and Taiz.

ICRC supports Yemeni medics

Over the last month, the ICRC:

  • provided hospitals in Abyan, Lahj and Taiz with medical supplies, helping them treat dozens of casualties;
  • donated gauze, bandages, cotton, gloves and antiseptics to the field hospital in al-Hassaba, northern Sana'a;
  • provided the field hospital in the district of Arhab with medical supplies, enabling it to treat dozens of casualties;
  • provided a private hospital in Amran governorate (treating people transferred from Arhab district) with drugs and medical supplies, enabling it to treat dozens of people wounded by weapons;
  • supplied dressing kits, intravenous fluids, painkillers and antibiotics to the village of Dammaj in Sa'ada governorate and facilitated the transfer of 12 people from the village to hospital in Sa'ada city;
  • helped the ministry of health to vaccinate nearly 3,400 children under the age of five against measles in the district of Harf Sufyan, Amran governorate;
  • ran a workshop on war surgery for 50 staff from Aden University's Faculty of Medicine and Nursing;
  • ran another workshop, on the management of mass casualties, for approximately 40 doctors at the 48th Model Hospital in Sana'a.

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