Yasir Hameed: Power, fuel, food, and water shortages in Yemen

Yasir HameedNearly two weeks have passed since my last update here, and the situation in Yemen is still deteriorating rapidly. One of the most shocking reports I have come across said that power cuts and fuel shortages mean that vulnerable patients are dying in hospitals in many parts of Yemen.

Despite the seriousness of the situation there, I had great difficulty in finding reports written in English and nearly all of my information comes from my personal communication with my friends in Yemen and from Yemeni independent news websites and updates posted on social network sites.

Al Hudaydah (also called Hudaida or Hodeidah) is the fourth largest city in Yemen with a population of 400,000 people, and the centre of Al Hudaydah Governorate. There have been many reports about the death of patients with chronic renal failure due to the temporary closure of the renal dialysis unit in Al Thawra Hospital in Al Hudaydah. It was closed because of the complete lack of electricity for several days and the difficulty in getting fuel for the power generators to the hospital.

Not only was the dialysis unit affected by these continuous power cuts, but reporters said that many hospital departments are not functioning now, including the burns unit, laboratories, the blood bank, and surgical theatres.

According to an employee at the Al-Olofi hospital in Al Hudaydah, the smell of decayed bodies in the morgue has spread outside the hospital, as the morgue is not working due to the power cuts. The Yemen Times have also reported on this situation here.

I have found these videos on YouTube documenting horrible scenes from inside one of the hospitals in Hudaydah (most likely Al Thawra Hospital). The first video shows the hall where renal failure patients are waiting for their turn to have dialysis as there is only one machine working. An elderly patient is lying on a stretcher with a nurse not wearing a uniform doing an intravenous access in the hall while assisted by patient’s relative. Other patients are waiting, some of them on the floor.

In another video uploaded by the same user, a male patient who needs dialysis is saying that patients are dying due to the lack of electricity and he demanded that the government should do something about this. Beside him another man who had features of renal failure also commented on his suffering due to the lack of electricity.

There are many reports about the power shortages all over Yemen. This report mentions the temporary closure of the dialysis unit in Turbah Hospital (Al Mawiyah city). Patients were told to go back to their homes or to seek dialysis in another city, which is very difficult owing to the lack of fuel and the lack of transport to other cities.

The Yemeni opposition parties have accused the government of deliberately causing these shortages in electricity and fuel in what they call a “collective punishment” to the Yemeni people. (Report published in Voice of Freedom on 21 June 2001 in Arabic http://www.sout-alhorriyah.com/?p=3360)

As well as power shortages, there are also ongoing food and water shortages. This is further exacerbated by the weather, as the temperature is currently 40 degrees centigrade. UNICEF has warned of a humanitarian crisis in the country. There is also a cholera outbreak in the south of the country due to contamination of the scarce water resources there.

I feel deeply saddened by the silence of the international community regarding all this. I really hope that the plight of the Yemeni people will be heard and that an urgent action will be taken to relieve the suffering of the people there. Until this happens, I will keep posting these updates here, in the hope that something will be done someday to help the brave men and women of Yemen.

Yasir Hameed is a core psychiatry trainee, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Trust.