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Mines and bombing: The shameful civilian toll

Pauling Falipou, Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation expert, explains the different types of injuries inflicted by mines and bombs in Yemen.

The teams work on numerous cases of amputations caused by bombs, landmines or explosive remnants. Landmines in particular, often lead to lower-limb amputations. When someone treads on a mine, they trigger an explosion which rips their leg off. This leaves no choice but to amputate the affected limb.

Complex injuries

As for bomb victims, they often sustain complex injuries: open wounds, fractures, burns, loss of muscle mass, nervous system damage, etc. These injuries can be very difficult to treat, and people are often left with life-long pain and sequela.

Humanity & Inclusion’s team also sees lots of patients with gunshot wounds. In these cases, the victims may lose muscle mass but do not usually require amputation. However, they do have a high risk of infection. Patients with gunshot wounds face a long recovery. After undergoing surgery, the rehabilitation required to regain mobility can take months. This long period of convalescence is tantamount to a temporary disability.

Psychological support alongside rehabilitation care

A mine explosion and the resulting loss of a limb are traumatic experiences. Waking up in hospital bed with a leg missing is a complete shock for a person who is already traumatized by the war. This is followed by a period of anxiety. How am I ever going to get back to normal daily life? How can I work and feed my family? Many patients are in a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion. They stop speaking and lose all willpower. They need psychological support.

It is also vital that the patient has a certain level of motivation for their rehabilitation to be effective. If they are not receptive to the care provided, they will not do the exercises which are demanding and sometimes painful. Finally, when they undergo an orthopedic or prosthetic fitting, it’s important that they feel ready to accept this huge change, which doesn’t always feel very natural.

Mine victims

In the last four years we have provided care to 2,500 victims of all types of explosive weapons, including 300 mine victims. If we compare our work here with interventions in other war zones, the proportion of mine victims is very high. 

Mines and explosive remnants

Landmines are used in Yemen to stop the enemy from advancing. They are found on the west coast of the country, mainly to the north, with a significant concentration around the city of Hodeidah, which has seen the worst of the fighting in recent months. The victims killed and maimed by landmines are almost exclusively civilians.

The west of the country, mainly to the south, is also where there is the most contamination of explosive remnants of war. These include bombs dropped in raids which do not explode on impact and thus contaminate the district or village where they land, becoming a permanent threat to the population and claiming further victims, usually civilians.

Overwhelmed hospitals

There are many zones where there are no health services whatsoever and the situation has deteriorated during the conflict. The country has numerous areas deprived of medical services and these areas have increased with the war because many health centers have been rendered inoperative by the fighting. People travel incredibly long distances to access treatment.

Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation care

Humanity & Inclusion is one of the few organizations providing post-operative rehabilitation services in Yemen. Our teams work in the governorates of Sana'a and Amanat al Asima, in two rehabilitation centers and six of Yemen's largest hospitals, treating patients from across the country. We've assisted more than 20,000 people in four years, of whom 13,000 have received rehabilitation care or advice.

Our rehabilitation staff have fitted 200 people with artificial limbs and braces through the rehabilitation and orthopedic-fitting center in Sana'a, and distributed more than 21,000 mobility devices such as crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs. In addition, more than 20,000 people have been given psychological support.

 

Photo caption: Erada, 7, lost her left leg after being seriously injured in a bombing while playing with her cousins. Today, she receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Yemen.