Jordan hospital struggles to cope with Yemen’s wounded
AMMAN // Groans fill the corridors of Amman’s Islamic Hospital as overstretched medical staff tend to Yemeni casualties from months of fighting in Aden. Most of the patients stare blankly at the walls, oblivious to their surroundings, but some chatter animatedly as they discuss the victory of pro-government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, when they recaptured Aden from the Houthi rebels in July.
Hundreds of Yemenis requiring treatment have been brought to Jordan, which is a member of the coalition seeking to defeat the rebels and restore the internationally recognised government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Jalal Fadal Awad, 42, has spent a month in recovery at the Islamic Hospital after being treated for severe abdominal injuries suffered during a rebel attack on the Dar Saad district in northern Aden.
A welder by trade, Mr Awad says that when the Houthis arrived in Aden, he felt he had to protect his city and went to the front lines despite having no military training.
The last thing he remembers before being injured is a Katyusha rocket exploding in front of him, before he blacked out. He is surprised to be alive: after regaining consciousness, “I saw my abdomen out of my body,” he said. “This is my second life. Allah saved me.”
Now he longs to return home. “When I can walk, I wish to return to Aden, my family, my daughters, my wife, my life.”
Not all Yemenis are in a hurry to go home. Since late March, when the coalition launched an air campaign against the rebels as they advanced on Aden, 1,628 Yemenis have registered as refugees in Jordan, said Edward Leposky, an official of the UN’s refugee agency.
The number of Yemeni refugees in Jordan is just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands from Syria, but those seeking treatment have put a significant strain on staff and resources at medical facilities, according to Khaled Al Thunibat, a manager for overseas patients at Islamic Hospital.
Mr Al Thunibat, who has also worked with the injured from Libya’s conflict, said that in addition to the long hours and six-day work weeks, the cases from Yemen have been emotionally exhausting.
“It affects me mentally too,” he said.
On Sunday, 266 people – many of them civilians, including women and children – were flown to Jordan on two Yemeni planes for treatment, said the chairman of Jordan’s private hospitals association, Fawzi Al Hammuri.
It was the largest group of Yemeni wounded to arrive in Amman since August under an agreement between private clinics in Jordan and the Yemeni government. In August, 180 Yemeni patients arrived in two separate batches as emergency services back home were overwhelmed.
All treatment is being paid for by the Yemeni government, said Mr Al Hammuri, who estimated the total cost at US$5 million (Dh18.36m).
Yemenis seeking medical treatment in Jordan is not a new phenomenon, said Dr Mohammed Nibat, general director at Islamic Hospital.
“Even prior to the war, there were many Yemenis coming for treatments such as for cancer, but in the past month there has been a significant increase in injury cases.”
Dr Nibat estimated there were 200 admissions in the past month alone, of which 40 patients were in a critical condition.
“While some are responding quickly, others take more time,” he said.
In a ward with six patients from Aden, Abdul Hamid Al Shaibani, 42, is recovering from surgery after being shot in the left foot by the Houthis in April.
He said he was being treated at a hospital in Aden’s Khormaksar district but fled out of fear that the Houthis were coming. He hid at Al Quds mosque nearby, from where he heard the sound of gunfire. “The militia took people outside and killed them. I could not see what was happening as I was hiding, but I heard the loud screaming,” Mr Al Shaibani said.
“This is against human rights, but many people don’t even know what happened to us. Many people died that day.”
The horrors of the war have left some patients severely traumatised.
Mohammed Saad, 16, joined the fighting against the Houthis and was hit in the cheekbone by a bullet on June 29. But more than his injury, he has been affected by the deaths of three friends.
His lips quiver as he walks aimlessly along the hospital’s corridors. At times, he imagines he is fighting the rebels again and screams “let me escape!” before crawling under the bed, his mother said.
Nahid Saad said Mohammed had not responded to the medication for trauma but doctors were insisting on discharging him.
“They put me under pressure and assured me he is okay and he should leave from the hospital,” she said, fighting back tears.
Even if Mohammed get better, they cannot go back to Aden.
“There is no home,” Mrs Saad said, pulling out a photograph of a ravaged building where she used to live in Khormaksar that was hit by Katyusha rockets during the first week of the war in April.
The government has to fund the rebuilding, she said.
For now, though, “I am thinking about the health of my son, not the money”, she said.
* Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Updated: September 7, 2015 04:00 AM