Exiled government urges international community and UN to act immediately as humanitarian situation worsens.
Taiz, Yemen – Last October, Wahid al-Esaei, 23, a resident of Taiz’s al-Masbah neighbourhood, was returning home from the supermarket when shelling by Houthi fighters killed two people nearby, and left him with an injured leg.
“While my leg was bleeding, some people came and took me to al-Thawra hospital, which is the best hospital in Taiz nowadays. Then the doctor told me that there is shrapnel in my leg and I have to leave for Sanaa to do an operation,” Esaei told Al Jazeera.
The Yemeni city of Taiz has been under siege by the Houthi rebel group since last April, preventing injured civilians from obtaining the medical care they need.
Esaei’s father, Adbulhakim, borrowed money in order to take him to the Science and Technology hospital in Sanaa. “My father rented a car and we travelled towards Sanaa. But when we arrived to al-Hawban area, which is under the control of the Houthis, [fighters at] a Houthi checkpoint in Softel roundabout stopped us and accused me of being a resistance fighter,” said Esaei. After a long argument with the fighters, the father and son were forced to return to Taiz.
We depend on smugglers to bring medical supplies to the besieged areas in Taiz.
Houthi fighters are preventing the hospitals still in operation in Taiz from importing medical supplies, according to Haitham Abdul Malik, a doctor at the state-run al-Thawra hospital – and those who try to leave the city in search of treatment are often restricted from leaving by the Houthis, who accuse them of being resistance fighters.
“The Houthis target us and prevent us from leaving Taiz for treatment. They just want us to die,” said Esaei, adding that he was praying to God for revenge.
Esaei then returned to Thawra hospital, where the doctors decided to amputate his leg – something he says would not have been necessary if he had been able to receive treatment in Sanaa.
Thawra closed its doors to new patients late last month, citing a lack of supplies.
“The hospital officially closed its doors, as the medicines and oxygen cylinders are finished, and we cannot get new ones to the hospital because of the siege,” Abdul Malik told Al Jazeera.
Although some patients remain inside the hospital, he said, it cannot receive any new ones until it obtains more medicine and oxygen cylinders.
Although Esaei lost his leg due to a lack of quality treatment, he is still alive. Other Taiz residents have been unluckier. In November, shelling by Houthi fighters hit the house of Fahd Al-Masani, 31, in al-Shamasi neighbourhood.
“While I was about to sleep at 10pm, shelling targeted our house, and I felt that it hit Fahd’s room,” Fahd’s brother, Khalid, told Al Jazeera. “Then I ran to the room and I found that Fahd was injured by the rocket. After that, I went out looking for a car to take us to the hospital, but I could not find a car easily, as the drivers fear renting their cars for injured people. But after around half an hour, I got one.”
When Fahd and his brother arrived at Thawra, the doctors told Khalid that some shrapnel had lodged in Fahd’s brain, and that the foreign doctor who had done such operations left Yemen last April.
“I was pessimistic when the doctors said they cannot help my brother,” Khalid said, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Then I tried to take my brother to Sanaa, but the doctors told me that the Houthis prevented many others from going, so I had no choice but to see my brother die in front of my eyes.”
Fahd died after two days of suffering.
“Both of the warring sides in Taiz killed my brother,” Khalid said. “I don’t care who will take over Taiz. I just want both sides to stop killing civilians. If there is no resistance in Taiz, the Houthis will take over Taiz without war and Taiz will be like the capital, Sanaa.”
Abdul Malik said there were many other cases where patients have died due to the hospital’s inability to treat them.”The foreign doctors who are specialised in important operations such as brain and heart have left Yemen,” he said.
“Also, we do not have the proper medicines for these things in the hospital, so we cannot help the patients.”
Abdul Malik said that out of Taiz’s 20 hospitals, only four are still in operation – and none of those is working at full capacity. The others have closed either because they do not have medical supplies or because they are in conflict zones.
“We depend on smugglers to bring medical supplies to the besieged areas in Taiz,” said Abdul Malik, “and the patients are in dire need of different kinds of medicines, in addition to oxygen cylinders. Many people have died because of a lack of oxygen cylinders.”