Yemen: Influx of war wounded in MSF facilities as fighting intensifies in Hodeidah, Hajjah, Saada and Taiz governorates and closure of the project in Ad Dhale governorate

As conflict intensifies on several frontlines across Yemen, an influx of people with war-related injuries are being treated at facilities run by international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Ärzte ohne Grenzen (MSF) in Hodeidah, Hajjah, Aden, Saada and Taiz governorates. At the same time MSF closes its projects in Ad Dhale governorate due to insecurities and threats.

In Hodeidah, a major offensive was launched on 1 November by forces loyal to President Hadi, backed by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC), against Ansar Allah troops. Heavy ground fighting and aerial bombardments are threatening the lives of thousands of civilians.

Between 1 and 6 November, MSF teams in Hodeidah treated 24 war wounded civilians at Al Salakhana hospital, including five women and nine children. Of these patients, 17 had blast injuries and one had a gunshot wound. 

In the same period, another 50 war wounded were treated at MSF’s surgical field hospital in Mocha, 180 km south of Hodeidah, mostly injured by blasts and gunshots. They included three women and eight children.

This increase follows an intensification of ground fighting and aerial bombardments in Hodeidah since last Thursday. “A stronger offensive by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition backed forces was launched with a deployment of troops on the ground. They have moved quickly around the city,” says Frederic Bertrand, MSF Head of Mission in Yemen. “This raises fears of a siege which could affect the tens of thousands of people still living inside Hodeidah.”

“Every day we hear the sound of heavy airstrikes and shooting in the city,” says Bertrand. “On Monday afternoon [5 November], ground fighting occured near Al Salakhana hospital and the MSF house. Our teams had to stay inside the hospital for their own safety.”

Movements of civilians leaving Hodeidah were reported last weekend but it is difficult to assess how many have already left the city. “Other civilians are reportedly trapped inside the city because of the ongoing ground fighting and airstrikes.”

A campaign of massive airstrikes carried out by the SELC is ongoing across several areas of the country. On the night of 5 November alone, MSF teams received 16 war wounded in Abs and 18 in Hajjah following intensified fighting on nearby frontlines.

Daily airstrikes are also ongoing in the Haydan district of Saada governorate – the most heavily bombed region since the conflict escalated in March 2015. MSF works in Haydan hospital, which was hit by a SELC airstrike three years ago.

MSF teams are also seeing increasing numbers of war wounded patients from Hodeidah and Taiz at MSF’s trauma hospital in Aden. Between 1 and 6 November, 16 patients were treated in Aden hospital for war wounds. All 16 came from Hodeidah, a six-hour drive from Aden, to access much-needed surgical care.

An extremely difficult decision for MSF has been yesterday’s announcement of the closure of its humanitarian project in Ad Dhale governorate, southern Yemen. The decision to close is a result of repeated attacks and threats of violence on the medical facility, health staff and most recently, on MSF’s residence in the town of Ad Dhale.

“Humanitarian organisations must be able to provide the much needed medical humanitarian assistance without being threatened with violence. This has not been respected in the Ad Dhale town,” says Ton Berg, Head of Mission (MSF Holland) in Yemen. “There have been multiple security incidents directly targeting patients, staff and MSF supported medical facilities in the area. After this series of serious incidents, we are left with no choice but to close all medical and humanitarian activities in Ad Dhale governorate.”

“Our activities have been suspended several times in the past years. In the latest example in October 2018, our staff house in Ad Dhale was attacked twice in less than a week. In spite of these suspensions and constant negotiations with all stakeholders, security incidents and threats in the town of Ad Dhale continue. With such a threat to safety, MSF therefore sees no possibility of providing quality impartial healthcare,” Berg added. 

The closure of activities will include stopping the support to the four MSF supported health facilities in Al Nasr Hospital in Ad Dhale town, Al Salaam Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) in Qatabah, Thee Jalal PHCC in Al Azariq, and Damt PHCC.

MSF was one of the few medical organisations delivering humanitarian assistance to the community in Ad Dhale. MSF acknowledges the impact this closure will have on access to healthcare in the governorate, and that it will deprive thousands of Yemenis of much needed humanitarian and medical assistance.

“We deeply regret that it has come to this point. This has been a very difficult decision for MSF to take, but one that at this point is unavoidable for the safety and security of our staff,” Berg said.

MSF has been working in Ad Dhale since 2012 supporting the provision of free medical care to the people of Ad Dhale, Qatabah, Al Azariq and Damt districts. Over time and through conflict, epidemics, and widespread medical needs, MSF’s support has enabled these health facilities to treat more than 400,000 patients across the governorate. 

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Lukas Nef Communications Officer, Médecins Sans Frontières/Ärzte ohne Grenzen (MSF)
Lukas Nef Communications Officer, Médecins Sans Frontières/Ärzte ohne Grenzen (MSF)
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