CAIRO (AP) – About 10 children with leukemia in Yemen have died, and dozens more have fallen seriously ill after receiving an expired dose of cancer treatment in the rebel-controlled capital.
The devastating conflict in Yemen, now entering its eighth year, has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, killing more than 150,000 people.
The children, aged between three and 15, died at Sanaa’s Kuwait Hospital after being injected with old doses of smuggled drugs in a number of private clinics, the rebel-led health ministry said in a statement Thursday. The officials did not say when the 10 were killed.
According to half a dozen health officials and employees who spoke to The Associated Press, about 50 children received a smuggled chemotherapy treatment known as Methotrexate, which was originally manufactured in India. They said a total of 19 children had died from the expired treatment. The officials and workers spoke on condition of anonymity as they had not been briefed to speak to the media.
Amid the war in Yemen, lack of access to basic resources, including food and medicines, has led to large smuggling networks in both rebel-held Houthi and Saudi coalition-run areas.
Several doctors in Sanaa said Houthi officials are secretly working with drug smugglers who often sell expired treatments to private clinics from warehouses across the country. In addition, they said the Houthis were limiting the availability of safe treatments.
The Houthis have tried to cover up causes of death in the past. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors accused the Houthi government of forcing medical workers to forging death certificates.
Houthi’s health ministry said it has opened an investigation into the incident. In their statement, they blamed the deaths on the Saudi coalition forces for causing a lack of available medicines in Houthi-controlled areas.
The family of one of the deceased children said their son felt pain and cramps after receiving the expired chemotherapy treatment and died five days later. “The worst part was that the hospital administration tried to hide the truth from us,” said the boy’s father, who asked not to be named for the safety of him and his family.
Failure to extend the nationwide ceasefire in early October threatened to rekindle the bloodshed after a six-month lull in the fighting. The Houthis blamed the stalled negotiations on the UN, which has facilitated ceasefire negotiations, while the US envoy in Yemen accused the rebel group of hijacking the peace talks by making last-minute demands.
Iran-backed Houthi forces captured parts of North Yemen and Sanaa in 2014 and drove the government into exile. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition — including the United Arab Emirates — intervened the following year to try to bring the internationally recognized government back to power.
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