The founder of Yemen’s Red Crescent humanitarian organization — responsible for saving thousands of lives since the 1970s — has died as a result of the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions in the country.
Abdullah Alkhamesi, one of the nation's leading doctors, was unable to go abroad for heart surgery, due to movement restrictions imposed by Saudi Arabia.
He died in hospital on Friday, in the capital Sana’a.
His son, Zubair, told The Guardian that they were not able to find stents, expandable tubes that are used for narrowed arteries in the heart, in Yemen because the war has left many health facilities barely functioning.
“First, (the hospital) couldn’t find the stents. (Then) they found one and they found another one, and they bought some from an Indian nurse. Stents cost them $1000, it’s just crazy. It’s massive money in Yemen,” Zubair Alkhamesi said. “They collected all of them, they made the operations and then the doctor said he needed more, but they didn’t have any more.”
“He got the stents but he didn’t get better, since then he deteriorated and there was no way to get him out to Cairo, or Amman, the queue was very long, there’s a queue for names for patients, the Saudis have stopped the planes,” he added.
The Saudi-led coalition that invaded Yemen to fight Houthi rebels has imposed restrictions on Yemeni airspace, which led to the closure of Sana’a airport in August 2016. While only a dozen humanitarian flights are allowed into the country each week, there are no commercial flights allowed at all.
The UN estimates that as a result of the airport’s closure, 20,000 patients have been denied potentially life-saving healthcare abroad.
“Of course, he died because of lack of access to life-saving medicine,” Zubair told the Guardian. “It’s very hard to get anything in Yemen now, you can’t get the medicine, you can’t get the stents. You have to go and bribe the people and find everything through the back door, everything is very, very expensive, doctors would say buy this now and go sometime and it would take you a week to find this medicine.”
“You are angry, you can’t do anything, because it’s not the people’s fault, it’s the government, it’s the king of Saudi and the (emir) of Emirates, they are all playing politics, they’ve destroyed the whole country,” he added.
Alkhamesi, who was born in 1941, was part of a group of 30 people sent to Russia by former Yemeni President Imam Ahmad bin Yahya to train as a doctor. He founded country's the Red Crescent in 1973, serving as its general secretary until the early 2000s.