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Funded by UAE, wounded Yemeni soldiers get treatment in India

A burst of bullets caught Yemeni soldier Khalid Ahmed Alwan’s spine and immobilised him during a fierce gunfight against Houthi militiamen two years ago.

After months at a hospital in his war-torn nation, 25-year-old Alwan along with 54 fellow wounded soldiers was flown in a chartered aircraft to New Delhi on November 19 for advanced medical care.

More than wound, he is now worried about the woman he was betrothed to.

The young man was deployed to Ma’rib, about 120km from Yemeni capital Sana’a, to fight the Houthis a week after his engagement and days before his marriage.

“I hope I would be fine soon and get married to the same girl. That is the only thing I worry about,” he said in a Gurgaon hospital through an interpreter.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is footing the medical bill for this people. And Indian hospitals were chosen to take care of them because of the UAE’s “close ties” with India.

Alwan and fellow wounded soldiers Anaz Nadeem and Shikah Khalil considered themselves lucky to be alive in a conflict that has so far killed 8,600 people, wounded 49,000 and left over 20 million in need of imminent humanitarian assistance since March 2015.

The United Nations had termed the civil war in Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis.

Doctors treating these war patients in three hospitals in and around Delhi are astounded by the complexity of their wounds and ailments.

Dr Vikram Sharma, the head of urology at Fortis hospital in Gurgaon, said he is dealing with “unique kinds of urological cancer” in these patients. “It could be because of chemical weapons or from radiations. We need more investigations to come to a conclusion.”

According to Dr Anil Behl, who heads plastic surgery at Fortis, reconstruction surgeries are often required as most of patients are from a war zone and victims of bomb blasts.

Yemen has been one of the poorest in the Arab world and the war between forces loyal to president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebellion has deepened the economic crisis.

Ahmed Al Banna, the UAE’s envoy to India, said his country has spent more than $2.35 billion in humanitarian and development aid for Yemen in the past two years.

The UAE government’s decision to send wounded Yemeni citizens to India for treatment “is a reflection of the trust we have in India’s medical infrastructure”, he said.

The current lot of patients wishes to go home early. “I am in pain, but home is home” Khalil said.

The 24-year-old Nadeem joined the army to serve the nation. But the military training, war and bloodshed didn’t take away his love for literature and psychology.

He wants to go home and hopes “to complete his studies”.

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