In War-Torn Yemen, A Paramedic Struggles To Save Lives

Pro-Hadi tribal militias outside the security forces HQ in Aden, Yemen — Xinhua/Xinhua/ZUMA Wire
Apr 07, 2015 at 1:41 PM ET

With limited help coming from outside and under heavy fire from different factions fighting in Yemen, local paramedics, doctors and ambulance drivers of the city of Aden carry the responsibility of saving the lives of wounded civilians and fighters.

Vocativ analysts identified several on-the-ground activists involved in a range of medical emergencies in Aden, a strategic port city where shelling and intense street fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and supporters of Saudi-backed Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has led to large-scale destruction. One of the paramedics, Nazar Sraro, is a 35-year-old Yemenite lawyer who has volunteered to help the wounded during periods of crisis dating back to his country’s 1994 civil war. Sraro also is overseeing funding and donation campaigns for the medical sector in Aden.

Sraro told Vocativ that, since the beginning of the Houthi campaign in the city, he had lost a few of his friends who had volunteered as paramedics and ambulance drivers for the Red Crescent. “Ambulance crews were targeted deliberately,” Sraro said, referring to three different incidents in which at least one paramedic or ambulance driver was shot. According to Sraro, only one of those incidents was verified as having been deliberate and attributed to the Houthis.

Despite the growing humanitarian crisis in the city, the Red Cross decided Monday to delay a plan to send 48 tons of medical supplies to Sana’a, Yemen’s abandoned capital, from where supplies would pass to other cities like Aden. The conditions were deemed too dangerous to proceed.


Translation: The Houthis attack ambulances in Aden.

Ambulance drivers in Aden are at times too afraid to go out in the field, Sraro said. “There are approximately six public designated ambulances available in the city now,” he told Vocativ through Facebook messages written in Arabic. “In some cases, the drivers are too afraid to go. I asked to drive an ambulance, but they refused to give me the keys.” The other ambulances, he said, belong to private hospitals and companies, and most of them will not leave the station due to the risk of their being targeted for attacks.

Sraro claimed that most of the financial support for medical services in the city is coming from donors in Yemen and Kuwait. “There’s no shortage of equipment for paramedics, however there is a severe shortage of doctors, paramedics, nurses and medication for severe diseases as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer,” Sraro told Vocativ, emphasizing that out of approximately 500 Red-Cross trained employees, only a handful of them were seen on the streets.

Despite photos of dead Houthi fighters abandoned in the streets of Aden circulating on local Facebook groups, Sraro claimed that medical personnel in the city do not take sides.

“We evacuate them and treat them even if they kill our own people. We are obligated to do so, according to Islam,” Sraro emphasized. He claimed that most of his colleagues felt the same way.

Translation: Their (Houthis) dead bodies scattered on the streets of Aden