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Yemen: Civilians wounded and killed in Hodeidah frontline hostilities

14 Dec 20 | 31 May 21

Yemen: Civilians wounded and killed in Hodeidah frontline hostilities

ReCivilians wounded and killed in indiscriminate frontline hostilities in Yemen Caption
The operating theatre at MSF’s trauma centre in Mocha. Since late November 2020, the overwhelming majority of patients have been war-wounded civilians.

Renewed conflict on the frontlines south of Hodeidah, on Yemen's Red Sea coast, has become some of the most intense fighting in the country.

The number of civilians now needing major war-trauma surgery is rising.

Since October, the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) trauma hospital in the nearby town of Mocha has treated 122 war-wounded patients. But, since the last week of November, there has been a distinct change, with the vast majority of severely wounded patients being women and children.

Disturbing and outrageous

“We treat everyone needing emergency surgery in our Mocha trauma centre – war wounded, traffic accident victims, and pregnant women needing emergency surgical delivery,” says Raphael Veicht, Head of MSF in Yemen.

“But when it’s suddenly almost all civilians coming with terrible weapon wounds, that raises serious questions."

“What we are seeing in our small hospital is disturbing and outrageous," says Veicht.

"Killing and wounding civilians in conflict not only constitutes a severe violation of International Humanitarian Law. It goes further than that.

"Our patients include children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and men working in a milk-bottling factory that was hit by shelling - there is nothing that can justify this.”

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Treating wounded women and children

A woman was brought to the MSF hospital on 29 November with a rough life-saving amputation already done to both her lower legs, but she required corrective surgery.

She described how she had joined other women and children, many of them her relatives, to attend a clothing sale in a house in their village of Al Qazah in the district of Ad Durayhimi. She did not know exactly what happened next, but there was an explosion – her father afterwards told her that it was a shell that landed on them. She woke up later in the MSF hospital.

“No. More. Civilians. People just trying to get by, trying to survive, trying to be good mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters – these people are being killed and maimed, and that just has to stop.”

Raphael Veicht
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Head of MSF in Yemen

The house was made of reeds and palm leaves, so provided no protection. The woman went on to list all of her relatives who were killed in the attack:

“Four women: my aunt, my brother’s wife, two of my female cousins. Five children: my brother’s son, two cousins, and two children of other cousins.”

ReCivilians wounded and killed in indiscriminate frontline hostilities in Yemen Caption
The MSF Mocha trauma hospital is a strictly no-weapons zone – vital to maintaining safe and impartial care for all patients

From this same shelling attack, the MSF Mocha hospital also treated one other patient and stabilised an 11-month-old child who needed to be immediately referred by ambulance to the more advanced MSF hospital in Aden. Sadly, the child died before reaching Aden.

There have been a number of similarly tragic instances that our teams have dealt with in recent weeks:

On 24 November, the MSF Mocha hospital received seven civilians patients wounded when a roadside bomb exploded as they returned from a wedding. Reportedly five people were killed in the explosion, including a child.

On 25 November, two children found an unexploded munition on the roadside and were brought to MSF after it exploded when they threw it to the ground; they had severe abdominal and chest trauma wounds.

On 3 December, MSF admitted six people wounded when a milk-bottling factory in Hodeidah was shelled – the patients say at least 10 of their co-workers were killed in the strike.

1_1_Patients

250,300

OUTPATIENT CONSULTATIONS BY MSF IN YEMEN IN 2020

5_1_surgery

26,600

SURGICAL INTERVENTIONS BY MSF IN YEMEN IN 2020

8_8_Births2

23,400

BIRTHS ASSISTED IN BY MSF IN YEMEN IN 2020

Intensifying conflict in Hodeidah

The influxes of weapon-wounded patients to MSF’s hospital provide a confirmation that the frontlines in southern Hodeidah governorate are currently among the most active in the whole of Yemen.

The intensifying conflict is also forcing hundreds of families to flee once again from their homes, and the expansion of areas at risk of shelling or other attacks means essential healthcare and food assistance is increasingly limited at the time when it is most needed.

“Whether targeted or indiscriminate, these attacks breach all the rules of war,” says Veicht.

“No. More. Civilians. People just trying to get by, trying to survive, trying to be good mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters – these people are being killed and maimed, and that just has to stop.”

MSF in Yemen

Yemen is in the midst of a civil war. Since March 2015, a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has been fighting anti-government Ansar Allah forces, resulting in widespread destruction, bombing and gun battles.

Recent outbreaks of diseases and an upsurge in fighting have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. With an estimated 20 million in need of humanitarian assistance, our activities in Yemen are among our most extensive worldwide.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) works in 12 hospitals and health centres across the country and provide support to more than 20 hospitals or health facilities across 11 governorates.