Last Friday, at least 10 children being treated for leukaemia have died after being administered expired doses of cancer treatment in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Rights groups have called for an international investigation into their death after “bacterial contamination” had been detected in the injections administered to the children.
According to a half dozen health officials and workers who spoke to The Associated Press news agency, some 50 children and teens received a smuggled chemotherapy treatment known as methotrexate that was originally manufactured in India.
They said a total of 19 children and teens had died from the expired treatment. The officials and workers spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not briefed to speak with the media.
The mother of one of the deceased children who declined to be named told the AFP that her son “had various pains, so a doctor prescribed sedatives, but his pain only got worse and he lost consciousness”.
Due to the war between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi armed group, the country’s health sector has been suffering and now is considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, having killed in excess of 150,000 people.
Siege worsens the situation
Amid Yemen’s war, the lack of access to basic resources, including food and medicine, has created large smuggling networks across both rebel-held Houthi and Saudi coalition-run areas.
Several doctors in Sanaa said that Houthi officials secretly work in partnership with medicine smugglers who sell often expired treatment to private clinics from storage houses across the country. In doing so, they said the Houthis were limiting the availability of safe treatments.
The Houthi 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 medicine in Houthi-controlled areas.
The family of one of the deceased children said that their son complained of pain and cramps after receiving the expired chemotherapy treatment then died five days later.
“The worst thing was that the hospital administration tried to hide the truth from us,” said the boy’s father, who asked not to be named for his and his family’s safety.