The world’s worst humanitarian crisis
HI works in eight health centres and hospitals in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, where it provides rehabilitation care and psychological support, and distributes mobility aids such as crutches and wheelchairs. The conflict and the blockade imposed in November 2017 by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are having a devastating impact on the population. Maud Bellon, the director of HI's programmes in Yemen, describes the situation.
Rehabilitation session for a patient injured in an airstrike. After a tracheotomy and surgery on his leg, he can now walk with help. | © Camille Gillardeau / HI
What’s the situation like in Yemen?
I recently spent several days in Aden because we’re hoping to open new humanitarian programmes in the city and in the governorates of Taizz and Lahj next January. Aden is not the target of violent attacks, unlike other cities such as Hodeidah, where the fighting is extremely violent, or Sa'ada in the north, which is being bombed almost every day.
Aden is a dangerous city, but more because of a surge in criminal activity and protests against rising prices.
The number of armed groups has increased significantly. There are regular attacks and successful assassination attempts on local leaders. The government of Aden is divided into two rival camps.
Can you tell us about the blockade imposed a year ago?
Twelve months ago, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on the country’s imports. Fuel is now only available through alternative channels and is obviously more expensive. The price of food stuffs, gas, etc. has increased and it is almost impossible for a Yemeni family to live normally.
The fierce fighting that broke out earlier this year in Hodeidah - the port through which nearly 80 percent of Yemen's imports and most of its humanitarian aid pass - has also worsened the crisis and further weakened millions of Yemenis who are already struggling to survive.
Although the country imports almost all of its food, as a result of the combined effect of the conflict and blockade, 18 million people - 60 percent of the country's population - are food insecure. In many areas, it is very difficult to access safe drinking water, which has led to an outbreak of cholera in recent weeks.
Where is HI providing humanitarian response?
At the moment, we’re focusing our humanitarian operations on Sana’a. We have been providing rehabilitation care, psychological support and mobility aids (prostheses, crutches, wheelchairs, etc.) since 2015. We work in eight hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres. In three years, we have supplied rehabilitation assistance to 20,000 people, psychosocial support to 17,000 people and prostheses, wheelchairs or crutches to 9,500 people. Sixty percent of the people we treat have been injured in the conflict, car accidents, and the like.
We also recently implemented a programme to distribute financial assistance to nearly 600 families.
What’s the security situation like in Sana'a?
The fighting is mainly concentrated on the outskirts of Sana’a and there is sporadic bombing. One team had to make an emergency about-turn because of bombing close to the hospital they were travelling to. The city's airport was attacked recently. The extreme volatility of the situation has made the safety of HI’s teams a constant concern of ours.
Waves of casualties
"The wounded come from the different front lines and arrive in waves, depending on how fierce the fighting is. Most are injured in explosions, by gunfire, etc. We also treat large numbers of road accident victims and amputees. Because hospitals are so crowded, medical staff send patients back immediately after surgery, unless the patient has enough money to stay. The main problem is also the great difficulty in transporting injured people from the front lines to hospitals, the cost of transport and medical expenses.”
Maud Bellon, HI's Program Manager in Yemen