Ye­men’s blood bank faces nearing threat of clo­sure

‘Our med­i­cal sup­plies have nearly run out’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ye­men’s blood bank has sent out an ur­gent ap­peal to any­one who will lis­ten, as war and a block­ade on the cap­i­tal may force the cen­tre to close within a week. “We ap­peal to all hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and all fi­nan­cial donors to sup­port the cen­tre, as our med­i­cal sup­plies have nearly run out,” said Ad­nan Al-Hakimi, direc­tor of the Na­tional Blood Trans­fu­sion and Re­search Cen­ter in Sanaa.

“We will only be able to work for one more week, and af­ter that if the hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions don’t mo­bi­lize to sup­port the na­tional cen­tre, it will shut down.” The blood bank says it treats some 3,000 Ye­me­nis a month who suffer from can­cer, kid­ney fail­ure and tha­las­saemia, an in­her­ited blood dis­or­der which causes sever anaemia. But a trifecta of war, dis­ease and famine has left the bank strug­gling to keep up with spi­ral­ing de­mand, with ba­sic sup­plies all but im­pos­si­ble to se­cure in a country locked in by port and air­port block­ades. “We’ve been im­pacted by the over­all sit­u­a­tion in Ye­men, in­clud­ing the eco­nomic col­lapse,” Hakimi said.

Less than half of Ye­men’s hos­pi­tals are still up and run­ning two years into a war be­tween Iran­backed Shi­ite Houthi rebels, who con­trol Sanaa, and a govern­ment al­lied with a Sunni Arab mil­i­tary coali­tion led by Saudi Ara­bia. The country’s main in­ter­na­tional air­port in Sanaa is also block­aded, with ac­cess lim­ited to a se­lect few UN aid flights by the Saudi-led coali­tion, which con­trols the airspace. The war has de­stroyed much of Ye­men’s in­fra­struc­ture and pushed the country — long the Arab world’s poor­est state — to the brink of of­fi­cial famine. More than 8,300 peo­ple have died in the con­flict, with an­other 47,700 in­jured and mil­lions dis­placed, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO). A cholera out­break has also claimed the lives of some 2,000 Ye­me­nis in less than four months.

‘Switch sup­port to other pri­or­i­ties’

Amina Ali, whose young son has a con­di­tion that re­quires blood trans­fu­sions, makes the trip to the cen­tre reg­u­larly for blood and platelets. Now, she says, she fears those trips are num­bered. “I or­der blood and platelets for my son ev­ery 10 days from the cen­tre,” she told AFP. “What if it shuts down? Many chil­dren will get worse, in­clud­ing my son.”

Hakimi said the in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal char­ity Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders (MSF) had been pro­vid­ing sup­plies to the bank since 2015 but “sur­pris­ingly sud­denly stopped” in June. In a state­ment emailed to AFP, MSF con­firmed it has been sup­port­ing the blood bank for two years and only handed over the ac­tiv­ity to the UN’s WHO in June 2017.

“As health needs have been in­creas­ing in Ye­men, MSF chose to switch its sup­port to other health pri­or­i­ties,” the group said. “The last do­na­tion MSF gave to the blood bank was in June 2017. That do­na­tion was to sup­port the run­ning of its ac­tiv­i­ties for 2 months, giv­ing the time for WHO to start its sup­port.”

Like MSF, the United Na­tions has warned it has been forced to di­vert re­sources from one com­mu­nity to aid an­other — most re­cently, from food pro­grams to han­dle the escalating cholera out­break. The United Na­tions has said that less than half of the $2.1 bil­lion pledged this year to Ye­men by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has been dis­bursed. But de­spite the dwin­dling hope, Ye­me­nis refuse to give up on oth­ers in need. “I am here to do­nate blood as an act of char­ity and for my country,” said Ab­dul­lah Farei, one of a hand­ful of cit­i­zens who turned up at the cen­tre to do­nate blood. “We ask God that the cit­i­zens re­spond to the call of the blood bank and do­nate blood and money.” — AFP

SANAA: Ye­meni medics work at a blood trans­fu­sion cen­tre. — AFP

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