Feature: Killed by cancer, Yemen's children pay high price of war, blockade

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-03 17:42:05|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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A doctor examines a child cancer patient at the National Oncology Center in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 1, 2020 (Photo by Adel Bishr/Xinhua)

SANAA, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni child Ahmed Fadhl Hussein was fighting cancer at a cancer treatment center in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, hammered by years of war and a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Ahmed's eyes turned white while the doctors at the National Oncology Center in Al-Jumhoori Hospital were doing everything they could to save his life. They said there were no enough medicines to treat him.

Most cancer patients in Yemen seek treatment at the National Oncology Centre in the Houthi-held Sanaa. The center receives more than 600 patients per month, according to the center's monthly reports.

The civil war in Yemen that has been lasting for over four years has caused the suspension of the government support to the center, leaving it completely dependent on the international humanitarian aid, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The center has repeatedly announced that it is about to close, a move that will deprive thousands of patients of life-saving radiation and chemotherapy.

A WHO report in February 2019 estimated that number of cancer patients in Yemen reaches approximately 35,000.

It has been a month since the 15-year-old Ahmed, arrived along with his parents and uncle in Sanaa, coming from the southern province of Abyan in searching for treatment in this center.

"We have transported Ahmed to Sanaa with great difficulty because of the high cost of transportation," Mohamed Hussein, the uncle of Ahmed, told Xinhua. Abyan is about 427 km southeast of Sanaa.

"We do not have enough money... and Ahmed is in critical condition and needs to travel abroad for saving-life treatment," the uncle added.

Next to Ahmed's bed, hundreds of children, women and men lie in the beds waiting for treatment.

"Many cases urgently need to travel abroad immediately to specialized hospitals for saving their lives," doctor Ghassan Al-Mashriqi told Xinhua, referring to the critical condition of the child Ahmed who was suffering from neck cancer.

During the examination of another child, the doctor Al-Mashriqi said, "this 7-month-old Abdullah Antar suffers from a tumor in the nervous ganglia, and fluids in the left lung, and he is in urgent need to travel abroad for treatment."

The child Abdullah has been receiving chemotherapy at the center for weeks.

Yemen's civil war began in late 2014 when Houthi militias stormed the capital Sanaa and forced the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile. The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in March 2015 to support Hadi's government.

The war has cut public sector wages, triggered severe inflation, reduced imports and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Doctor Abdullah Thawabeh, the head of the National Oncology Center, said "the center receives around 6,000 patients per year and there were no enough medicine, and the center also needs to be equipped with a modern three-dimensional radiation machine."

"The closure of Sanaa airport deepens the humanitarian catastrophe, as many cancer patients cannot endure the hardship of traveling overland," doctor Thawabeh told Xinhua, just a few moments before Ahmed's death.