Children under attack in Yemen: Hameed’s story

After suffering a devastating injury and a cholera outbreak, a young boy is determined to live

By Bassam Ghabr and Bismarck Swangin
A boy lies on a bed, Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2017
11 August 2017

SANA’A, Yemen, 11 August 2017 – Twelve-year-old Hameed is lying on a bed at the Thula Public Hospital north of Sana'a. This is the second time he has been hospitalized in the last few weeks, both times to receive treatment for cholera.

Doctors are giving him oral rehydration solution at the UNICEF-supported cholera treatment unit, while Hameed and his father both hope that this bout of cholera will be his last.

Although his cholera infections are recent, Hameed has been in and out of the hospital for the past several years. In late 2014, he was electrocuted when a high-voltage cable fell from a transmission tower during armed clashes in Amran governorate. The shock was near fatal, but he survived.

Hameed had to undergo 23 surgical operations and the amputation of his left arm. The electrocution left his face and body covered in scars, and caused severe damage to his nervous system. It also weakened his immune system, leaving him more susceptible to diseases.

His father, Faraj Abdulla, believes this is the reason behind Hameed’s repeated cholera infections, as none of his five siblings have been infected.

“Hameed gets easily exposed to simple diseases because of his weak immune system. There is little we can do to prevent him from falling sick," says Faraj.

But Faraj remains optimistic about the most recent infection. Hameed has already recovered from cholera once, and he is showing signs of improvement each day.

He is more concerned about the ongoing treatment for Hameed’s electrocution. He still needs a transplant in his abdomen and several nerve and plastic surgeries, in addition to care for the sudden loss of sight he experiences intermittently.

"I don't have money to buy medicines or pay for the surgeries. I don't even have money for transportation fees," says Faraj.

Despite his hardships, Hameed is cheerful, and even goes to school when he is healthy. Faraj is a teacher at the same school, and carries his son every day so he can attend classes with the other children.

Hameed dreams of one day leading the classes like his father.

"I want to be a teacher,” he says. “I want to recover."

The outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhea in Yemen continues to threaten the entire population, especially children. As of 7 August, there were more than 470,000 cases of suspected cholera with more than 1,900 associated deaths. A quarter of the deaths were children.

Since the outbreak was reported in April, UNICEF and partners have set up 530 oral rehydration therapy points across the country to bring treatment closer to communities. The centres ease the burden of transportation for families living in remote areas or far from functioning health facilities.