Three human rights organizations- SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties, the American Center for Justice (ACJ) and Bridges for Yemen- stated that the international community, especially the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and all relevant international bodies should open an international and urgent investigation into the repercussions of the death and injury of dozens of children with cancer in a hospital under the authority of the Houthi group after giving them expired medicines.
In a statement issued today, Thursday, the Houthi Ministry of Health acknowledged that 19 children had been injected with smuggled and expired medicines, 10 of whom died in Kuwait Hospital. The Houthi group blamed the causes of this disaster on what it called “aggression”, which is an unethical attempt to evade legal responsibility for the crime that must be investigated by a neutral party.
The organizations indicated that Yemeni media sources had confirmed the high number of deaths of children with cancer as a result of the drug “whose composition is unknown” and that was distributed by the Houthi Ministry of Health. Furthermore, local information confirmed that the number of deaths rose to 20 children until this evening whereas 30 other children are still in intensive care.
The “organizations” pointed out that the Yemeni Organization for Combating Human Trafficking had revealed the death of dozens of children with cancer in Sana’a at the end of September 2022. The organization explained that the Ministry of Health and Population in the Houthi government dispensed expired therapeutic doses after the expiration date was falsified, which led to the death of dozens of children with cancer.
Hussam Al-Yafei, President of Bridges for Yemen said, “What happened is a crime that affects the health security of every Yemeni citizen. The silence of the Houthi group about this crime puts more than a question mark about its role and responsibility as this crime reveals how serious the health situation is in Yemen especially with regard to people with chronic diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, and other incurable diseases. On the other hand, the Houthi group has become unreliable when it come to the way it managed this health situation, especially after press leaks which showed that the Houthi group sells medical aid such as medicines and supplies on the black market, or it stores these medicines until they are damaged. Then they modify the expiration date and redistribute them to government hospitals, and this is likely to happen in Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a.
The organizations stated that the attempt of the Houthi Ministry of Health to justify what happened as soon as news spread about the large numbers of victims by attributing the reasons to the war and the ongoing conflict in Yemen and that it offers all possibilities to help children recover is an immoral attempt to evade responsibility and the attempt to throw charges before any impartial investigation is conducted, which raises major questions about the reliability of the information provided by the Houthi group.
The organizations stressed the importance of the specialized international bodies to form a committee of the World Health Organization, UNICEF and independent Yemeni health experts to investigate the medical disaster that occurred in Kuwait Hospital and other medical centers, to identify individuals who caused it and reveal its circumstances to the public opinion.
The organizations said they do not trust any committees or procedures that the Houthi group may take to achieve this matter, especially since the group has been involved in this file for several months and cannot accept any information or findings that may result from its pro forma investigations.
The undersigned organizations stress that the situation in which Yemeni children live compared to their peers in other countries of the world reflects the magnitude of the real threat to these children. The three organizations emphasized that childhood in Yemen has been violated from several aspects in terms of safety, as well as a violation of life from one moment to another, in addition to violations of children’s rights in terms of nutrition, education and treatment, and their need for psychological support caused by the 8-year- war in the country.
The human rights organizations stated that the suffering of children in Yemen clearly violates international legal rules such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two international covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in addition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Conventions, especially the fourth, the Hague rules regulating armed conflicts, and the Rome Charter forming the International Criminal Court.
Accordingly, the organizations affirm their demands for the necessity of forming an international committee of the relevant authorities, led by the World Health Organization, to investigate this crime and reveal its circumstances and the parties that caused it so that the international community can take appropriate measures in this regard.