The Children of Yemen Face the Aggression’s Leukemia
Saraa Jamal Al-Shahara
During lean years, the US-backed Saudi-led coalition launched a war and a siege on Yemen. The killing machine relished in killing and destroying moving and inanimate objects alike, and the suffocating siege reaped everything else in all areas and services.
The Leukemia Center at Kuwait University Hospital in Sanaa is the only center in the Republic of Yemen still treating children with leukemia. Being the only one shows the barbarity of the coalition’s targeting. The center itself was not even safe from its targeting.
The center, with its limited capabilities and its medical staff that was affected by the consequences of the unjust siege and the disruption of salaries for four and a half years, has no chance for it to provide to children who come to it from all Yemeni governorates as a last resort from a reality rife with death.
The coalition's siege continued to target this center and the children patients on a daily basis, killing them slowly and coldly and making their small bodies a hotbed of cancer and a path for its spread. It is also preventing the arrival of the appropriate medicine. The doctors at the center confirm the existence of a frightening spread of leukemia during the years of aggression and the emergence of very complex cases and new types of leukemia in children the specialized center had not previously seen.
The center's pediatric specialist, Dr. Nasim Al-Ansi, told Al-Ahed News that an increase and exacerbation of the same type of cancer has been observed in recent years, as the incidence of [myeloid leukemia] has increased, and acute lymphocytic leukemia - the most common type - and cases that the center receives are significantly complicated and more difficult to treat.
Al-Ansi pointed out that in a large percentage of cases prior to the aggression, the affected white blood cells did not exceed 50 thousand, but in these years the cases of acute complex lymphocytic leukemia doubled. The number of white blood cells in some cases reached more than 100 thousand, 200 thousand, and 600 thousand. In some cases, it reached one million cancer cells.
What is worse is that the leukemia treatment center, which is the only one in the country, does not have the capacity to deal with these types of complex cancers, and most children suffer major setbacks that doctors cannot treat, especially with the collapsing health situation in the country as a result of the Saudi-led siege and aggression.
According to the pediatric specialist, "The center and its doctors suffer great hardship in treating children with complex cases of cancer, with whom relapses occur during treatment. The center cannot treat them. They need to travel outside the country to be treated in specialized centers and undergo marrow transplant. How is this possible for them when the aggression imposed its siege and closed all ports, including Sanaa International Airport?”
Al-Ahed closely monitors the pain of the children at the leukemia treatment center
On a field tour of the leukemia treatment center, we were surprised by the overcrowding of young patients and their families. Its yards, corridors, and rooms are filled with children waiting painfully and desperately for their turn in taking chemotherapy. This waiting often continues for days, even weeks. A large percentage of them come from distant provinces.
The number of children received by the center has doubled in recent years. In 2019, the center received 159 new cases. These numbers reached nearly 210 new cases in 2020.
Al-Ansi explains that the center “receives cases of leukemia from all governorates, and there is a wide spread of the disease in the governorates of Saada, Hodeidah, Amran, and Hajjah.” These governorates were subjected to the largest percentage of bombing by cluster bombs and prohibited and mysterious weapons. During 2019-2020, cases began to spread significantly in Ibb Governorate, which is one of the most important centers of refuge for the displaced coming from the most targeted and bombed areas.
Where would all these children go, especially since the number of the patients exceeded this modest center’s capacity?
Who will save children with leukemia from death?
Childhood in Yemen is deprived of dreams and hopes in light of the continued tyranny of the countries of arrogance. Young leukemia patients are stuck between their desperate struggle with more complex types of cancer on the one hand, and with no opportunity to cure it and slow down its horrific spread in their bodies due to the lack of medicines as well as the closure of all outlets for treatment abroad on the other.
They also suffer when they see one of their parents floundering in search for the cost of their medication or drowning in debts that accumulate for an open-ended journey with one end, as a result of the difficult living conditions caused by the coalition and siege.
"The blockade created difficulty in providing chemotherapy drugs. Patients wait for more than two weeks for these drugs to arrive. When they arrive, they do in small quantities that do not cover the need. Sometimes some kinds of drugs are available, while others are not," Al-Ansi states.
These children suffer from cancer and aggression, then they are finally forced to choose death to escape their grief and pain. The death toll from leukemia increased between 2018 and 2020, and according to the center's statistics, it exceeded 200 deaths.
Some of these children wish that cancer would leave them in this life a little longer for them to have the chance to ask the bosses of the aggression, why do you kill us a thousand times when you can do that to us only once?