A doctor working for Médicins sans Frontières shares her experiences of working in Yemen
Hella Hultin is a Swedish surgeon who is working for MSF in Yemen. In the current issue, she writes of her experiences of working in Khameeer in northern Yemen.
We were about to do an appendectomy on a girl, but my Yemeni colleague thought I might be tired after the long journey. So I sat in the operating room to watch. Suddenly both our phones rang. The voice on the other end was stressed asking me to come straight to the emergency room.
“Help! How do I get there?” I thought, while I quickly put on a white coat and hurried out, so fast the cats outside scattered in all directions. “Emergency?” I asked the attendant outside, and was pointed in the right direction.
When I arrived, the Emergency room was full of people, both patients and relatives. Many patients were being rolled in on stretchers from the ambulance entrance. I was told there had been an airstrike and more injured would be arriving soon. The injured were all covered in dust and dirt, and almost all had wounds from shrapnel. Several had fractures of the arms or legs, and some had burns on their face and hands.
A desperate husband was running around the room screaming. When I managed to get the interpreter to translate what he was saying, it turned out he was missing two of his children who had been caught up in the strike. It’s not hard to imagine his anxiety.
We got to work and ended up operating all night. We transferred two of the most seriously injured to a larger hospital for specialist treatment that we were unable to provide.
Hours later I made it to bed. As I lay down, it felt like I’d been there for weeks.
We do not know from this account the nature of the airstrike but there is no suggestion that those injured are military personnel. Accounts from people working inside Yemen are scarce as the Saudi’s have blockaded the country. Only a few journalists have managed to get in and there was a radio report last week of BBC’s Radio 4 news (limited time podcast).
We cannot tie this account to a strike using British weapons but we are a major supplier of materiel to the regime. The High Court recently absolved the UK government in a case brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
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