Houthi militias in Yemen are back to kidnapping health workers, Sanaa-based medics told Asharq Al-Awsat. The abduction campaign was likely restarted after physicians refused to help the Iran-backed group treat its injured fighters at frontlines.
Public hospitals, like Al Thawra General Hospital, are being targeted for the capture of their doctors and workers, the sources reported.
Taha Al-Mutawakil, the health minister of the Houthi self-styled government, had ordered a number of hospitals to put together teams of combat medics that would deploy to battlefronts and provide emergency medical treatment to wounded soldiers.
The directive, however, was snubbed by many in the health sector. Their rejection forced Houthis to resort to kidnapping health staffers, sources noted.
In the last few days, more than 12 doctors and 17 healthcare givers have been abducted from hospitals in Sanaa, they revealed.
What is more is that Houthi authorities fired a number of administrative officials in the health sector and replaced them with their loyalists.
After Al-Mutawakil’s call for enlisting emergency medics, registration was open for deployment to battlefronts in the governorates of Marib, Al-Jawf, Dhale and Hajjah.
Disregarding the strains weighing down on the local health sector, which has been weakened by years of wars, Houthis are exploiting resources at hospitals, kidnapping physicians and stealing medical aid sent by international relief organizations.
“At a time when the coronavirus is killing dozens, if not hundreds, of Yemenis living under militia rule, Houthis are pushing for more exploiting of health institutions and workers to serve their war effort,” a Sanaa-based health worker, who requested anonymity, complained to Asharq Al-Awsat.
Last week, the UN warned of the “imminent collapse of the health situation in Yemen”.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Twitter: “20.1 million people in Yemen are in need of medical assistance.”
It added that 51 per cent of the country's health facilities were fully functioning, noting that “67 out of 333 districts do not have doctors.”