Citing the war, lack of medicines, frequent electrical outages, and crumbling transportation infrastructure, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights in March attributed more than 1,200 deaths over the last three years to a lack of treatment for patients in the advanced stages of renal failure.
HODEIDA, YEMEN — For two years now, 28-year-old Hafedh Hassan has made the wearying trip — 80 miles each way, on bad roads — from his village in the coffee-growing Haraz region to this city on Yemen’s west coast, where a brilliant red sun meets the dazzling Red Sea.
Hafedh’s kidneys are failing him, and medical staff at the Hemodialysis Center here in Hodeida, administers life-saving dialysis treatments in two four-hour sessions twice a week. Patients in the advanced stages of renal failure typically need twice that many sessions, but three years of near-constant airstrikes by the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition have left Yemen’s roads impassable, reduced its hospitals and clinics to rubble, and short-circuited its electricity service, while a ruinous blockade of Yemen’s ports has depleted the country’s supplies of food and life-saving medicines.
With his face swollen and his skin as pale as any ghost, Hafedh lies in the hospital bed while his teenage son sits beside him, watching worriedly. When Hafedh finishes his treatment, he and the boy will find a spot outside to sleep until his next dialysis treatment.
I came here after a long and agonizing trip through rough, bumpy roads . . . I manage to score free medicine, but I find it hard to pay for transportation”
Still, Hafedh counts himself one of the lucky ones, all things considered. He is, after all, still alive. Receiving only half the medicines they need, three of every five patients at this dialysis clinic will die, a figure that may very well rise given the escalation of hostilities as the coalition tries to take the city and shut down the vital supply line it provides.
A Petri dish for death, disease, and chronic illness
Supported by the United States and other Western military powers, the war in Yemen has transformed this candy bar-shaped nation on the Arabian Peninsula from the poorest country in the Middle East to a Petri dish for death, infectious disease, and chronic illnesses.
Citing the war, lack of medicines, frequent electrical outages, and crumbling transportation infrastructure, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights in March attributed more than 1,200 deaths over the last three years to a lack of treatment for patients in the advanced stages of renal failure; another 6,000, the agency said, will likely die within the next year or two of inadequate treatment.
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Of the 32 dialysis centres Yemen had before the war, four have closed. The other 28 are struggling to provide services — with broken machines, a lack of essential supplies, and unpaid staff. Alexandre Faite, the head of the International Committee for the Red Cross in Yemen, told reporters in March:
Reducing the weekly dialysis sessions causes increased side-effects and a lower quality of life. Without dialysis treatment, the outcome is fatal . . . The urgent needs of dialysis patients underscore how conflict has devastated Yemen’s health care system, negatively affecting many people with long-term health concerns.”
Travel to dialysis centers is frequently a maze of checkpoints and potholes caused by constant bombing. The dialysis center here is particularly difficult to access because the coalition has escalated its attacks in an effort to seize the vital supply line in nearby Hodeida. The clinic is under tremendous stress — some nurses and doctors haven’t been paid for three years — and will likely close this week without an emergency infusion of supplies, doctors told MintPress.
Death by kidney failure or Saudi airstrike
MintPress spoke to several patients suffering from life-threatening kidney ailments. In his 50s, Haj Ahmed is from Beit al Faqeeh district, which is about 45 miles away from the Hodeida clinic. “Instead of traveling here from home for treatment, I decided to live in Hodeida,” she said, as the sound of warplanes could be heard flying overhead. Ahmed said that everyone in the clinic is resigned to a single fact:
We will die eventually by kidney failure or Saudi airstrikes.”
Another patient, Tafah Ali, said that his friends and neighbors donated small amounts of up to $10 so that he could receive dialysis treatments. But the money has almost run out. He tells MintPress:
If I cannot get a donation, I will not be able to stay here for treatment. I will die”
Hafedh worked the coffee plantations in Haraz until he was diagnosed with kidney disease in March of 2016. Typically energetic and outgoing, he began to feel weak and rundown; his vision became blurry and he couldn’t hold his food down.
The patients at the clinic are from all walks of life and of all ages but they are agreed who is to blame for the war that has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe today.
Said one 32 year old who gave his name only as Magbouli:
Who else could be responsible except the Americans? If United States says to the Saudis and the UAE to stop war, and lift the blockade, they will do that. They have a green light from the Americans.”
The President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Meteorology, Dr. Mohammed Abdul Qadir, told MintPress.
The closure of the Sana’a airport and the imposition of an air embargo have exacerbated the humanitarian situation for many civilians both inside and outside the country. Our statistics indicate that 21,600 patients died as a result of closing Sana’a airport and preventing them from traveling abroad.”
A source in the Ministry of Transportation confirmed that “more than 130,000 patients are chronically ill, and need to travel abroad for treatment.”
The World Health Organization said that nearly 16.4 million people lack access to health services across the country.
Last month, three airstrikes destroyed a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) clinic in northwest Yemen, killing at least 11 Yemenis and injuring another 19. The airstrikes represented the third time since the war began that a Doctors Without Borders medical facility in Yemen has been targeted. In the latest bombing, three Yemeni staff members of MSF were among the dead, three expatriate physicians were injured, and three other staff members had limbs amputated, according to the hospital director, Ibrahim Aram.
According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development, a local Yemeni NGO, more than 300 medical facilities have been struck by airstrikes in the first thousand days of war, including those facilities operated and supported by Doctor Without Borders.
Top Photo | Abdulla Moaidth endures a dialysis session at the Al-Jumhori Hospital in Sana’a, Yemen. Malak Shaher | MSF
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.