Traveling abroad for medical assistance is a long trend among the Yemenis. Today millions of critically ill Yemenis are on the verge of death due to the closure of the Sanaa international airport since one year. Outbound medical tourism is not that prominent in economically weak nations, but in dire necessity, there is hardly any option left for the Yemenis.
Flying overseas to avoid dying home!
It is the fragile healthcare infrastructure of the country that drives Yemenis for abroad medical assistance. The poor doctor to patient ratio and the limited number of quality hospitals prevents a huge population avail quality medical assistance.
As per the WHO, in Yemen there is 1 doctor available for 100,000 patients. Many doctors devote more time in their private clinics depriving the state run hospitals the due service.
Amidst this scenario, the Yemenis have long lost confidence in their own medical support and look for abroad medical assistance. Not only the rich but also the middle income group is forced to take up a huge financial burden of abroad medical assistance just to save their lives.
Many a times, deciding for beyond the border travel becomes too late as the patient has almost reached the last stage from where recovery is next to impossible. There are many instances of on-flight deaths as these patients could not bear the stress of flying!
Cairo is the most preferred destination that sees more than 200,000 Yemeni patient visits every year as per the statement released by Yemeni Embassy in Cairo. Better doctor to patient ratio, quality treatment and short flight duration are the main driving factors.
The next sought after destination by Yemenis is Jordan. Cost is not the only factor. Yemenis get preferential treatment in this country and can avail substantial discounts as well. Moreover, the Kingdom of Jordan is providing hassle free entry with quick visa approvals for Yemenis.
Though things have improved past few years but the demand is much higher than the capacity and whatever progress the country could make in healthcare is in shambles due to the prevailing civil war.
Sufferings escalate for trapped Yemenis:
The year-long closure of the Sanaa airport caused 10,000 deaths as people couldn’t access life saving medical treatment abroad reports Norway Refugee Council (NRC). Ironically, the country has seen more number of deaths due to the inability of availing abroad medical care than air strikes and violence. As per the figures posted by UN, NRC cited that about 7000 Yemenis travelled abroad annually before the closure of the airport.
Those in urgent need of medical care are opting for an alternative route via Seiyum Airport in Southern Yemen taking up a tiring 20-24 hours drive through warring zones risking their lives. For critical patients, it is stressful. Therefore, reports of on-journey deaths are also on the rise.
To make matters worse, the country is struggling to tackle the cholera outbreak, declared as the world’s worst by the WHO. It had already claimed 1800 lives leaving 3, 70,000 infected. This flying restriction has trapped millions who by no means can get access to life saving healthcare support and the number of people needing such support has jumped to 20,000.
Sanaa Airport: the lifeline of Yemen
Image Source : cdn.iraqinews.com
Yemen is fighting a civil war since 2015 when the Saudi-led military coalition took over the airspaces which included the international airport of Sanaa, the lifeline of the country. The airport is the main route for free movement of commercial goods and citizens. Its closure since 9th August 2016 has spelt disaster cutting off the supplies and restricting free movement of Yemenis to access abroad medical assistance.
It is important to note that Yemen imports 90% of its food supply and 100% drugs. Amidst this raging civil war, 23% of healthcare facilities of this country are no longer functioning. Either they were badly hit by air strikes and violence or have closed down due to lack of resource and support.
The Saudi-led coalition is preventing all sorts of humanitarian aids to Yemen extended by the UN leaving the hapless citizens at the hands of destiny. The rebels are restricting the UN flights carrying humanitarian aid by not allowing timely refueling of their planes. Therefore, it is easily understandable the plight Yemenis are facing due to this yearlong closure.
Yemen in the desperate need of medical tourism support:
The closure of Sanaa international airport is almost throttling the country to ultimate destruction. In spite of the non-stop air strikes and open shoot outs, the WHO officials are somehow managing to provide some supplies to different parts of the country but it is much below the requirement.
The only silver lining is that few days back 15 aid groups have approached the warring parties to open the Sanaa airport and allow Yemenis avail life saving abroad medical support without further delay. This has indeed caught global attention, and one may hope that it would not be easy to turn down the fervent appeal of the international aid groups.