Medical officials and workers said on Friday that at least 10 child leukemia patients in Yemen died after receiving expired doses of a cancer treatment in rebel-held Sanaa. Dozens more were left seriously ill, they said.
The world’s worst humanitarian crisis and over 150,000 deaths have been caused by Yemen’s destructive war, which has dragged on for eight years.
According to rebel-run Health Ministry, 10 children aged between three and 15 died after being injected with smuggled medicine at several private clinics in Sanaa on Thursday. The officials did not specify when the deaths occurred.
Six health officials and workers told The Associated Press that 50 children received a smuggled chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate that was originally manufactured in India. Nineteen of the children are said to have died from the expired medication, which was provided to patients without the required prescriptions.
Despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the absence of basic resources such as food and medicine has created large smuggling networks in both rebel-controlled Houthi and Saudi coalition-controlled areas.
Doctors in Sanaa say that Houthi officials work in secret collaboration with medicine smugglers, who store their supplies across the nation and then sell often-expired medicines to private clinics. By doing so, they say the Houthis restrict the availability of safe therapies.
The Houthi health ministry has opened an investigation into the incident. In their statement, they blamed Saudi coalition forces for causing a lack of available medicine in Houthi-controlled areas, leading to the deaths.
The father of one of the dead children said that his son experienced painful cramps after receiving expired chemotherapy. The hospital administration, he said, tried to keep his family in the dark. “The greatest injustice was that they tried to disguise the facts,” he said.
The Houthis have blamed the U.N., which has facilitated cease-fire negotiations, for the failure of nationwide truce extension in early October, which has jeopardized peace after six months of fighting. The U.S. envoy to Yemen accused the rebels of hijacking the peace process through last-minute demands.