Yemeni war wounded seek care in Jordan
AMMAN - Mohammed Ahmed Nasser lost his lower jaw when a sniper shot him in the cheek as he left his Aden home, rendering him unable to speak. He must be fed through a plastic tube.
Nasser, 24, is one of several dozen wounded Yemeni civilians who were flown to Jordan on July 15th for treatment. The Yemeni embassy is picking up the cost, according to hospital officials.
Yemen is torn apart by fighting between forces loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels, a group of adherents to the Shia Muslim sect, which is rival to Yemen’s Sunni-dominated government. The Houthis forced Hadi and his cabinet out of Sana’a in January.
Jordan has agreed to a Yemeni request to treat its wounded, according to a health ministry official, who declined to be identified. Nasser and 101 other Yemenis are convalescing at private Jordanian hospitals.
“This is a humanitarian gesture,” the official said. “After all, this is part and parcel of Jordan’s role in the region, which is peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance to war-stricken regions.”
At the Islamic Hospital in Amman, 40 wounded, including Nasser, were being treated in several rooms down a long, white hallway.
The youngest among the wounded is Mohammed Khalil, 17, who was injured in the face by shrapnel. He has undergone mouth, chin and neck surgeries since arriving in Amman.
Recalling his July 10th injury, Khalil said a nearby explosion wounded him. ”I fell to the ground, screaming with blood all over my face and body,” he said.
He said his brother got him to a local hospital. He was off to Amman five days later.
“I’m a student focusing on my studies and I have nothing to do with politics. Why there’s violence in my country is beyond me,” he added.
According to the Paris-based Doctors without Borders, 10,000 civilians were treated in Jordan for war wounds since March, including more than 5,000 who underwent surgery.
Islamic Hospital spokesman Nasser Tarawneh said it made special arrangements, which included booking a unit of several rooms and adding extra staff shifts, to accommodate the Yemenis.
“They suffered serious injuries to the bones, body burns, shrapnel and even mine explosions,” Tarawneh said.
Asked if he was concerned about a recurrence of financial issues that arose in 2012 when Libya slackened on settling $230 million owed to Jordanian hospitals for treating 57,900 Libyans. “All’s well, so far,” Tarawneh replied. He declined to say if the Yemenis paid a deposit.
The Libyans paid most of their bill following protracted and painstaking diplomatic contacts that had the Jordanian government involved.
At the Islamic Hospital, 21-year-old Hussein Salah was recovering from a sniper shot that fractured his left femur.
Salah said he was “caught in the middle” in street fighting in Aden on July 9th. “The worst thing is to be caught between fire exchange. I’m lucky to be alive today,” he said.
He said he has found “solace and comfort” from Yemenis studying in Jordan who volunteered to assist their wounded countrymen. One of the volunteers, medical school student Majed Ahmed Muthna, 19, said he was happy to help out.
“They are our brothers and they need us to be with them, to talk to them and keep them company to ease their suffering,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to help out and we’re happy to do it.”
To Nasser, the Yemeni who lost his lower jaw, the raging war in Yemen is keeping him in “considerable pain and confusion”. “Why are my people fighting?” he wondered. “It’s heartbreaking to see people of the same country killing each other.”
All that he is longing for is to “return home to a peaceful Yemen”.