“A New Year and a new mission with Médecins Sans Frontières!
The first thing I notice when our plane touches down at Sana’a Airport is two bombed buildings. Our car trip to Ibb takes five hours and the views as we ascend over the mountains are magnificent. We aren’t allowed to stop; we have to pass numerous check points and regularly phone headquarters to report our position.
The Médecins Sans Frontières residence here is large and comfortable, with offices on the ground floor and accommodation on the first and second. My room has a nice window but there are sand bags obscuring half the view! The Al Thawara Referral Hospital is only a 5–10 minute drive away but the traffic is horrific and there are no road rules.
Médecins Sans Frontières is in charge of the hospital’s 31-bed Emergency Room. The first day I arrived I found it rather chaotic: the Intensive Care Unit is right in the middle of the Emergency Department, there is no triage, no registration and every patient arrives with five to ten relatives. There is a lot of work to do and I’m keen to get started.
Ibb grinds to an almost standstill from around 2pm to 5pm every day when everybody starts to chew khat, a leaf with amphetamine properties. Security considerations limit our movements to the hospital and the Médecins Sans Frontières residence but I’m hoping we will be able to visit the market tomorrow. I need to buy an abaya (a loose, robe-like dress) and some headscarves. The ‘uniform’ I brought with me from France is not in keeping with Yemeni style. Because Médecins Sans Frontières has been in Yemen for a long time, we are well accepted. We have a low profile here and try to blend in as much as we can with the cultural traditions.”