SANA’A, Yemen — Five years have passed since the start of the Yemen War. Throughout the conflict, more than 100,000 deaths have been recorded, with 2019 being the “second most lethal year of the war so far.” In 2018, the United Nations reported 6,872 civilians had been killed and 10,768 injured. Being the poorest country in the Middle East, even before the conflict began, Yemen has struggled to provide adequate medical care to the victims of Saudi airstrikes and landmine explosions. These attacks have left many Yemeni people without limbs. While some have been able to recover, limited access to prosthetics in Yemen has presented additional challenges for survivors.
Despite a growing need for prosthetics in Yemen, the country severely lacks the resources to aid its people. In the few prosthesis centers that do exist, a lack of new supplies and technology often limits the success rate of their prosthetic treatments. Most prostheses built in Yemen are made from dated and heavy materials, causing discomfort and pain for users. One Yemeni engineer describes the prosthetics as “barely functional” and “primarily cosmetic.” In recent years, however, international aid has improved the situation for those living with limb differences in Yemen.
Aid Improvements Over the Years
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has provided continued support to prosthesis development in Yemen. The ICRC supports two prosthetics/orthotic centers in Yemen. One of them is The Prosthetics, Orthotics and Physiotherapy Centre in Taiz. Here, 225 of the 400 requiring prosthetic services have received artificial limbs. As the center works to address the excess demand, the ICRC has provided a crutch-making machine capable of producing 20 crutches per day as a temporary alternative. Through support like this, the ICRC continues to improve access to prosthetics in Yemen.
In 2015, a devastating battle in Aden, Yemen, left many civilians without limbs or in need of amputation. Recognizing the shortage of prosthesis services in the city, five local engineers bought a 3D printer and began creating quality prosthetics for the community. The team used a prosthetic design openly shared by e-Nable, an online non-governmental organization (NGO) of “Digital Humanitarian” volunteers who make low-cost upper body prosthetic limbs for people around the world. Enabling Aden is the Yemen chapter of e-Nable. In its first year of operation, the NGO created ten prosthetic upper limbs for seven people. As the organization overcomes financial challenges in the region, the number of people Enabling Aden reaches is expected to rise.
The Future of Prosthetics in Yemen
Other organizations like Enabling Aden have emerged around the country. Helping to improve both access to and the quality of prosthetics in Yemen. Moreover, the ICRC’s dedication to improving prosthetic and orthotic care has inspired other organizations to do the same. UNICEF, for example, has launched a victim assistance project in Aden. They have provided prosthetic services and physical therapy to children in Yemen. While the Yemen War is likely to continue to increase the demand for artificial limbs across the nation, hope for providing for those in need remains strong.
– Mary Kate Langan