Yemen: first aid saving hundreds of lives

25-03-2011 Operational Update

Two months into the violence that has affected Sana'a and a number of other cities, leaving some dead and many injured, the situation in Yemen is now further deteriorating in the north of the country, where renewed armed clashes have occurred in Sa'ada and Al-Jawf.

"We are deeply concerned about the threat to people's lives, well-being and dignity," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "Many people have been injured in Sana'a. The ICRC calls on all medical personnel and first-aiders to exercise total impartiality in tending the injured. Health-care facilities must allow the admission of any injured person regardless of his or her affiliations".

The ICRC appealed to both the authorities and the demonstrators to respect and protect the injured as well as all medical personnel, facilities and means of transport. All parties must grant safe access to anyone in need by vehicles and staff of humanitarian organizations, including Yemen Red Crescent Society first-aid workers.

To help Yemen Red Crescent volunteers respond to the most urgent needs, the ICRC is training them in first aid. These skills are needed more than ever to care for the scores of people injured during the demonstrations that have been rocking the country's main cities for months.

"Our first-aid staff are highly qualified, equipped and trained," said Elias Manea, who heads the Society's Sana'a branch. "A single minute can make the difference between life and death. That's why we call on all those present at demonstrations to grant us safe access to all victims."

The developments in northern Yemen are particularly alarming. The renewed fighting in Al-Jawf and Sa'ada is once again affecting a population that has not yet recovered from the last round of fighting. Many families in camps for displaced people and elsewhere are still fully dependent on humanitarian aid provided jointly by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent.

The ICRC is monitoring the humanitarian situation and has direct contact with all the parties concerned so it can seek guarantees of immediate and safe access to all people affected in the Sa'ada governorate.

In the south of the country, the ICRC is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready with a team of experts to respond to water and food needs. It is working in close conjunction with the local branches of the Yemen Red Crescent, whose volunteers are trained by the ICRC in disaster management, emergency response and first aid.

Around 40 expatriate and 120 national staff stand ready in Sana'a, Sa'ada, Amran and Aden to respond to urgent needs together with the Red Crescent. The ICRC is supporting the National Society in Sana'a, Sa'ada, Aden, Taiz, Hajja, Abbyan, Shabwa and Aldalie' and will extend its support to other branches if needed.

ICRC emergency response

The ICRC has been working as follows to support the Red Crescent, government medical facilities and other humanitarian services to help them to respond more effectively:

  • enough medical and surgical supplies (including blankets, first aid bags and dressing kits) supplied to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MOPHP) to care for over 100 injured people
  • 82 stretchers, 136 first-aid kits, 250 blankets, 250 mattresses and 30 tents supplied to the Red Crescent in Sana'a and Aden for use at first-aid posts
  • training on first-aid, humanitarian principles, and safer access procedures in the field  for over 260 Red Crescent volunteers in Sana'a and Aden branches
  • two dressing kits and five first-aid kits for the field hospital set up at Sana'a university
  • 10 first-aid kits and two dressing kits for the Red Crescent in Aden, plus four tents to be used as first-aid posts by the Field Medical Committee
  • 25 volunteers from the Sana'a branch of the Red Crescent trained by ICRC water-and-habitat engineers in emergency-supply procedures.

Clean water

Over the past three months, the ICRC has:

  • ensured that people living in conflict-affected areas have access to clean water (water delivery by truck, diesel fuel supplied for pumping stations, and the ongoing construction or repair of rural water projects)
  • trucked in water for some 25,000 residents and 6,000 displaced people in Sa'ada alone after the urban water network stopped functioning on 21 March
  • continued supplying some 11,200 displaced people and residents in Amran governorate with clean water
  • worked on several projects in the governorates of Aden, Lahj, Shabwa and Abyan in the south and south-west of the country to make water available to some 21,000 local residents by repairing water-supply networks.

Health care

Over the past three months, the ICRC has:

  • started supporting three new MOPHP health centres in Sa'ada (the outpatient unit at Al-Jomhory hospital, Majz and Al-Mahather) as well as a Red Crescent clinic and 10 facilities in various affected areas, including the six camps for displaced people (these facilities gave more than 43,300 consultations over this period)
  • resumed support for Al-Harf health centre in the Harf Sofyan district of northern Amran governorate and maintained support for the Khaiwan Al-Hamra and Khaiwan al-Madina clinics (over 3,500 consultations)
  • provided primary health-care (in conjunction with the Red Crescent and the MOPHP) by means of technical support, training and medicines.

Food and other essential items

Between January and March, the ICRC and the Red Crescent have:

  • distributed food rations – wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt – for more than 150,000 people in the governorate of Sa'ada, including residents of the old city of Sa'ada, in the Aal Sa'ud and Mandaba areas in the north-west of the governorate, in Al Talh areas in Saher district and in Safra district
  • supplied blankets, mattresses, tarpaulins and basic household items to 3,300 displaced people and residents in Sa'ada and Abyan governorates
  • completed a livestock-treatment campaign for almost 115,000 animals in Amran governorate, including the areas of Al Ashah, Harf Sufyan and Al Qaflah.

Detainees and missing persons

Over the past three months, the ICRC has:

  • carried out visits to people held in the Central Prison and the Political Security Prison in Aden, as well as in the Criminal Investigation detention facility, the Central Prison and the Immigration detention facility in Sana'a, discussing its findings and recommendations solely with the detaining authorities, in line with standard ICRC procedures
  • organized 20 video-teleconference calls between families and their relatives held at the US detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram, Afghanistan
  • organized 64 ordinary telephone calls between Yemeni nationals held at Guantanamo Bay or in Afghanistan and their families in Yemen
  • helped forward 246 Red Cross messages (containing brief family news) between families in Yemen and relatives detained at Guantanamo Bay, and around 56 Red Cross messages between families in Yemen and relatives detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon
  • helped exchange over 660 Red Cross messages between refugees from the Horn of Africa and their families
  • succeeded in determining the whereabouts of 20 people who had gone missing, and restored contact between them and their families
  • continued to provide food, hygiene items and basic health-care items in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent for 965 people awaiting deportation
  • continued working with the Yemen Red Crescent to enhance the reading and writing, sewing, embroidery, weaving, handicraft, and computer skills, as well as other abilities of approximately 120 women held in 10 prisons.

For more information, please contact:
Ammar M. Ammar, ICRC Sana'a, tel: +967 71 44 99 790
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or + 41 79 251 93 18



Nurses attend to an injuredperson in a hospital in Aden
© Reuters


Medics carry an injuredperson at a makeshift clinic outside Sanaa University
© Reuters / K. A. Ali Al Mahdi

Sana'a Branch Office, Yemen Red Crescent Society. YRCS volunteers learn first aid and other skills with support from ICRC trainers. 

Sana'a Branch Office, Yemen Red Crescent Society. YRCS volunteers learn first aid and other skills with support from ICRC trainers.
© ICRC / A. M. Ammar

Sana'a Branch Office, Yemen Red Crescent Society. Training for these volunteers included not only first aid but also such topics as safer access to people in danger. 

Sana'a Branch Office, Yemen Red Crescent Society. Training for these volunteers included not only first aid but also such topics as safer access to people in danger.
© ICRC / R. Alrefaie