Yemen’s conflict has taken a terrible toll. Some injuries can never truly be healed. Anmar Qassem is a young man, and strong. But a landmine took away both his legs, and one of his arms.
“I stay at home, I cannot move,” he says. “I need four people to help me move. Even crawling is very hard for me, I lose my balance.”
The fighting continues, despite peace efforts. That means, says ICRC demining expert Mike Trant, that the risk of mines and unexploded ordinance is almost impossible to reduce. In fact, the danger may be spreading.
“There is a huge issue with UXO and landmines here,” he says. “The front lines are constantly shifting which means a large area of the country is contaminated and it causes a huge problem for rural areas and in urban areas because you have the airstrikes, shellings etc.”
It is a danger which affects everyone; young, old, men, women, boys, and girls. Mansour is just five, with all the energy and mischief of any five year old. But he lost his leg when he was just a baby, and the childhood he has a right to has been restricted.
'Mansour is upset because he can’t play with the other children,” explains his mother Um Mansour. “He always asks why he has only one leg while his sister has two. He wants to go back to kindergarten but they refused to have him back.”
Children are especially vulnerable. They cannot always recognise a lethal mine or unexploded shell when they see one. In the five ICRC supported physical rehabilitation centres in Yemen, 38 per cent of the patients are children.
“I personally have seen a case where a young boy in Al Hudaidah lost a leg and has some series injuries because he thought he was picking up a toy, when it was in fact a UXO”, says Mike Trant.
“He brought it home and dropped it in the house and got injured, and as well his mother and sister sustained injuries in the explosion.”
Every young person who has lost a limb yearns to live an active life again. But even with treatment, the process is challenging, and painful. Osama Abbas, who is 14, is still growing, and the first artificial leg he received didn’t really fit him.
“Walking wasn’t so easy, in Aden they provided me with a better one,” he says. “But now I need an operation to fix the bone and also a more advanced artificial limb.”
Last year the ICRC provided 90,000 people in Yemen with artificial limbs, physiotherapy, braces or splints. 90,000 people, many of them children, who should never have needed such treatment, who should never have suffered such injuries.
Getting on their feet again requires a willpower from these young people most of us have never had to summon up. The ICRC will continue to support them, so that children like 12 year old Shaif can have, at a minimum, the chance to continue his education.
“Thank God” says Shaif when he is fitted with his artificial leg. “Now I can go back to school, I can play with my friends, and I can walk everywhere just like normal!”
Physical rehabilitation, artificial limbs, and mine education can help. The ICRC is committed to continuing all of these things in Yemen. But those things cannot undo the catastrophic damage. And only a halt to the use of landmines, and a halt in fighting to allow landmines and UXO’s to be cleared, can prevent more children suffering such terrible injuries.
- The ICRC is supporting five physical rehabilitation centres in Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, Saada and Mukalla, where in 2018 we provided nearly 90,000 people with prosthesis and orthosis services (artificial limbs, physiotherapy and braces or splints). 38% of the patients we have helped at these centres are children. 22% are women, the rest are men.
- The ICRC supports branches of the Yemen Mine Action Centre (YEMAC) in both the north and the south of the country. YEMAC works nationally to raise awareness of landmines.
For further information please contact:
Fareed ALHOMAID, ICRC Sana’a, tel: + 967 739 164 666
Sara ALZAWQARI, ICRC Beirut, tel: +961 3138 353