The Limb Center in Sana'a and Compulsory resistance to disability

Restoring the wounds of Yemenis who were crushed by the machine of death
Ala'a Mohammed
February 21, 2022

The Limb Center in Sana'a and Compulsory resistance to disability

Restoring the wounds of Yemenis who were crushed by the machine of death
Ala'a Mohammed
February 21, 2022

On January 31, a number of disabled victims of the ongoing war in Yemen were preparing to have their prosthetic limbs fitted, while others were undergoing physical training as part of a rehabilitation program at a government center for limb-making and physiotherapy in the capital, Sana'a.

On the same evening, the windows of the training halls in the same center were shattered by the bombing of the coalition aircraft, which targeted the radio camp near the center, which led to terrorizing the center’s attendees with disabilities, but its employees told “Threads” that they are used to those accidents. It is not the first time that they have faced the threat of death in a center that gives hope to the souls of those who lost parts of their bodies due to the death machine that has been targeting Yemenis for more than seven years, during which the center received hundreds of thousands of cases from different Yemeni governorates.

Evolution with crises

The limp Center was established as an administrative body of the Yemeni Ministry of Health in the late 1960s in a modest building consisting of two rooms next to the current building of the Ministry of Civil Service in Al-Buniya neighborhood in the center of the capital, Sana’a. The center was under the dual supervision of the Yemen Red Crescent Society and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the services provided by the center were limited to the restoration and maintenance of prosthetic limbs and prosthetic devices that were obtained by amputees from outside Yemen.

In 1982, the management of the Limb Center was taken over by Dr. Mansour Abdul-Malik Al-Shuja, then it was taken over by the officer in the Yemeni army, Major General Ahmed Hammoud Al-Saqqaf, who continued as director of the Limb Center for more than three decades. In 2019, Ali Muhammad Al-Awaj was appointed as the director of the center, and he continues in his position to this day.

The development stages of the center were in the late eighties of the last century, when the Yemeni Ministry of Health granted a large ​​land close to the ministry building in the Al-Hasbah neighborhood, north of Sana’a, in order to build the new building of the center.

In the early nineties of the last century, the center brought in dozens of qualified cadres for the manufacture of prosthetics, and physiotherapists from Britain, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Egypt at the expense of the Yemeni Ministry of Health, which took over the disbursement of their salaries and financial dues until 2013, the year in which dozens of those cadres left for their countries because of the security, political and economic instability that Yemenis suffered during the February 11, 2011 revolution.

Those foreign experts were working on educating and rehabilitating the Yemeni staff working in the center until the number of local cadres who were trained on the manufacture of prosthetic limbs became more than fifteen employees of the center.

After the civil war in Yemen resulting from the decision to re-secession of southern Yemen from its north in the summer of 1994, the importance of the center increased when hundreds of citizens who lost their limbs flocked to it on the battlefronts, in the farms, fields and roads where mines were planted.

As a result, the country's highest authorities paid attention to developing the center, as it was divided into the general administration, the technical department, the physiotherapy department, and the women's department.

Moreover, during the third millennium period, the center worked in partnership with some international organizations to dispatch a number of its employees to India, China, Tanzania and Kenya for training and then return to perform their tasks in the center. 

According to the interview of the deputy director of the center, Mohammad Jayash, to "Khuyut"; the technical department is responsible for the manufacture of prosthetic limbs for those who have lost their limbs, and for those who have total or partial disabilities, and it is the most important department in the center, and it is divided into five sections, namely, the department of measurements, gypsum and casting, the department of prosthetics, the department of prosthetic devices, and the department of leather goods. As for the Department of Physiotherapy, it has been dedicated to treating and rehabilitating patients with various disabilities as a result of internal diseases, skin and surrounding membranes, bones and joints. In these departments, modern methods of physical therapy were used, including wax treatment, compresses and proximity, water, laser, and opposite baths. As the Director of the Physiotherapy Department at the Center, Hassan Al-Sami'i, said during his interview with "Khuyut".

Al-Sami’i added: “In this department there are also devices for short-wave, infrared, ultraviolet, ultrasound, electrical stimulation therapy, shock waves, and magnetic field, which are capabilities that are not available in any medical institution in Yemen, pointing to the Department of Physiotherapy, there is a section for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, and a section for therapeutic exercises. The same male physical therapy sections are found in the section for women, in addition to a swimming pool.

Huge numbers of people with disabilities

The ongoing war has affected the performance of the Limb and Physiotherapy Center in Sana’a due to the increasing number of people with disabilities and patients coming to it from various Yemeni regions, including areas under the control of the internationally recognized government.

 According to statistics issued by the Limb Center in Sana’a, which “Khuyut” reviewed, the center received, during the first three years since the outbreak of the war in 2015, more than 30,000 cases, of which 17,000 were in the Prosthetics and Orthotics Department, in which lower and upper prosthetic limbs were manufactured and dispensed wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, belts for the neck, abdomen and shoulder, shoes and splints for hands and feet.

Mohammed Jiyash, Deputy Director General of the Center, confirms that this increase in the number of people with disabilities has put a burden and pressure on the center, as it is required to provide raw materials for prosthetic limbs, which are imported from Swiss, German, and Chinese international companies, as well as the provision of qualified human cadres facing the requirements Those huge numbers of patients and people with disabilities.

In the Training and Rehabilitation Department, we train people who have amputated limbs, and our work is not limited to physical training and rehabilitation, but psychological, according to Malakah Al-Taweili, one of the trainers with disabilities in the center.

She added, "when a person who has lost part of his limbs comes to us, we do not treat him based on his sectarian or political affiliation, all here are equal, and we offer our services to Yemeni people without segregation."

A number of workers in the prosthetic limbs center whom “Khayut” met refute the difficulties that the limb center faced, including the delay in the arrival of raw materials needed for the manufacture of limbs due to the delay in entry permits for these materials by the Arab coalition, and the interruption of the operational financial budget that was disbursed by the Ministry of Finance Prior to the transfer of the Central Bank of Yemen from Sanaa to Aden on the nineteenth of September 2019,

In addition, the problem of the interruption of salaries which also had a negative impact on the psychology of the workers in the center, who had to work during the morning and afternoon shifts to meet the increasing needs of their daily visitors 

Non-profit Services

Most of the services provided by the center are almost free, and some services, devices and equipment are provided to people with disabilities at lower prices compared to exorbitant prices for limps that are manufactured in private commercial centers.

The Director General of the Center, Ali Mohammed Al-Awaj, confirms to "Khuyut" that the determination and dedication of the center's workers were the most important driver for continuing the services provision to people with disabilities, men and women of all ages.

Al-Awaj says that his administration has absorbed qualified Yemeni cadres instead of the foreign experts who left the country after the eruption of the war, and that the center has also become an institution for training students specialized in the manufacture of limbs and physiotherapy.

Some prosthetic and physiotherapy services are provided in the center with the support of the Fund for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, as a government agency, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The relationship between the latter as an international organization and the Prosthetics Center is considered a successful and exemplary partnership, according to the description of the Operations Officer at the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dominic Stellhart, as he sees, during his speech to "Khuyut", that "the Orthopedic Center in Sana'a is a model at the level of the region, so it deserves to continue its support within the framework of the humanitarian support always provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen.

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