The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen have persisted in their looting and extortion of pharmacies and medicine distributors in Sanaa and other regions under their control.
In the past two months, the militias cracked down on pharmacies and medicine storage facilities in Sanaa, Dhamar and Omran under illegal pretexts.
In response, pharmacy and medicine storage owners recently staged a sit-in in Sanaa to protest against the Houthis’ criminal practices.
They revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the protest was prompted by the militias’ closure of more than 432 pharmacies in Sanaa for allegedly failing to meet certain Houthi “standards” and for committing “violations”. This was simply used an excuse for the Houthis to justify their crimes against the pharmaceutical sector.
Moreover, the pharmacists and owners revealed that the Houthis have recently demanded that they relinquish half of the profits they made from selling medicine in return for opening their stores.
The militias also forced, under the threat of violence, medicine importers to provide financial aid and medical convoys to treat Houthis who have been wounded on various battlefronts.
They warned to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis’ ongoing violations may lead to a “real catastrophe.”
Some 75 pharmacies have been referred to the judiciary on undisclosed charges and 152 establishments have had their goods confiscated and forced to pay fines.
The Houthis often make accusations against pharmacists in order to blackmail them. They accused 1,335 pharmacies of failing to renew their license, 66 of selling unlicensed medicine, 66 others of failing to properly store their goods and 49 of selling expired medicine.
A source at the pharmacists syndicate in Sanaa denied the Houthi accusations. The claims are “baseless and fabricated,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
Medical sources had previously told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis had sought to open pharmaceutical companies that are loyal to them and closed others that have been in business for years.
Moreover, medicine importers said the Houthis had brought in low quality medicine that are harmful to one’s health. The Health Ministry that is affiliated to the militias then forces pharmacies and distributors to sell these products, directly harming their credibility and forcing them to shut down.