"SHE STEPPED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION AND DETONATED AN EXPLOSIVE"
Hello, my name is Elma Wong. I’m an anaesthetist from Birmingham.
I’m just back from my fourth assignment in Yemen with MSF.
I was working in a tent hospital near Mocha – a region that has seen heavy fighting.
The local health system is broken. If we weren’t there, there wouldn’t be anything to support these people. That’s the sad, devastating truth.
And, it really is thanks to people like you that we are able to carry out our desperately needed work.
"This conflict is one of the worst man-made humanitarian crises in the world"
Please scroll down to discover more about the brutal conflict in Yemen, the families devastated by landmines, and how we're saving lives on the frontline of medical care.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN YEMEN?
Since March 2015, a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has been fighting anti-government Ansar Allah forces, resulting in bombing, gun battles and widespread destruction. Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the conflict.
Many hospitals have been destroyed and those still open are in urgent need of medical supplies. Yemenis are struggling to afford food and fuel due to unemployment and rising prices.
These conditions, combined with airstrikes and ground fire, have turned this conflict into one of the worst man-made humanitarian crises in the world.
Right now, MSF teams are working in 12 hospitals across the country and are providing support to more than 20 health centres.
Since the conflict escalated in 2015, our teams have treated more than 90,000 people for violence-related injuries, more than 110,000 people for cholera and more than 14,000 people for malnutrition.
In Mocha, on the southwest coast, we’re beginning to see huge numbers of landmine victims.
The area is littered with landmines and the injured people arriving at our hospital in Mocha are civilians – they’re kids playing in the local field, farmers putting their animals out to feed, people out with their families in marketplaces who accidentally stepped in the wrong direction and detonated an explosive.
Landmines, like most high-velocity weapons, cause huge destruction. They’re indiscriminate and they’re devastating. It's one thing if you even survive the explosion, let alone make it to hospital.
"Each time I go back, the situation is worse. The trauma injuries are relentless, whether from gunfire or landmines or airstrikes."
We saw people come in with both legs destroyed. A lot of the time, these patients arrive in a critical state because they've lost a huge amount of blood along with losing their limbs.
The blast from an explosion can destroy large surface areas of your skin, which is hugely painful and also very difficult to treat. Really it’s a very devastating, very unjust violence to inflict on people.
One of our patients was an eight-year-old girl called Amarah. She was out playing with four friends when she stepped on a landmine. One of the boys she was playing with was killed. Amarah was brought to us in a critical condition.
"The sad and devastating truth is that if we weren’t there, many Yemenis would have virtually no healthcare"
The explosion fractured her leg and damaged all the tissue around it. She also had shrapnel injuries to her abdomen. We rushed her to surgery and, over the following weeks, she returned to theatre eight to 10 times because of infection. Her wounds just wouldn’t heal.
It didn’t help that she was hugely malnourished. That's another problem we see: ordinary people can’t get the food and nourishment that they need, and kids are at high risk of malnutrition.
Amarah came in having sustained a massive injury to her already weak, frail body. Treating her wasn't easy – we had to manage her surgically and also deal with the complications of her being malnourished. But we didn’t give up on her.
She was so tired, but our dedicated physiotherapist worked with her every day to build up her strength.
Bit by bit, her appetite came back. With that, her strength improved and so did her ability to do physiotherapy. Soon her wound infections improved too.
What was also lovely was that, as time went by, she became less scared – she got used to us and warmed to us. When she came into theatre, she'd hold onto your hand and ask you not to leave her, which broke our hearts.
She started to heal and gain weight, and after six weeks she was able to go home with her grandma.
WHY WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
I feel compelled to keep going back to Yemen. It's my way of dealing with the frustration of seeing the headlines.
A 12-year-old boy receives a follow-up after treatment for a shrapnel wound © Mohammed Sanabani/MSF
Each time I go back, the situation is worse. The trauma injuries are relentless, whether from gunfire or landmines or airstrikes. Meanwhile the health system has completely broken down.
That’s why MSF’s work in Yemen is so important. We’re there helping to fill the gap, providing trauma surgery, running nutritional programmes for malnourished children, treating infectious diseases.
An MSF physiotherapist helps 18-year-old Ali who lost his leg after stepping on a landmine © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF
The sad and devastating truth is that if we weren’t there, many Yemenis would have virtually no healthcare.
"We couldn't work where we're working and do the things we're doing without supporter donations"
We couldn't work where we're working and do the things we're doing without supporter donations. Our ability to react to situations and set up tents and hospitals in no time whatsoever is purely because we have the funds to do so.
This work really does save lives and, if we weren't there, I can't imagine what would happen to these people.