Yemeni government calls for investigation into deaths of child cancer patients in Sanaa

At least 10 children with leukaemia died after being given expired chemotherapy drug

A Houthi police vehicle patrols a street in Sanaa, the rebel-held Yemeni capital where at least 10 child leukaemia patients died after being given expired drugs. EPA
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Yemen's internationally recognised government has called for the World Health Organisation to investigate the deaths of at least 10 child cancer patients in the rebel-held capital after they were given expired chemotherapy injections.

The Houthi rebels' health ministry said on Thursday that the children were among a group 19 of leukaemia patients aged between three and 15 and died at the Kuwait Hospital in Sanaa after being injected with old doses of smuggled medicine at a number of private clinics.

Muammar Al Eryani, the government's Information Minister, said the Iran-backed Houthis were to blame for deaths and accused the rebels of restricting access to lifesaving medicines provided by international organisations so that they could be sold on the black market at a profit.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Mr Al Eryani said the number of deaths caused by the expired drug was 18 and called for an international investigation.

“We urge the international community, United Nations and international organisations, especially the WHO, to open an urgent investigation the incident, to prosecute and hold those involved in it accountable, and to stop the restrictions and manipulation practised by the Houthi militia with donated drugs, and the smuggling of corrupt and expired medicines through companies owned by their leaders,” he said.

Yemen’s civil war since 2014 has cut off ready access to essentials such as food and medicine, giving rise to smuggling networks across the largely rebel-held north as well as in the government-controlled south.

The Houthis are often accused of blocking or holding up deliveries of humanitarian aid, on which 80 per cent of Yemen's 30 million population depend for their survival.

Several doctors in Sanaa told the Associated Press that Houthi officials secretly work in partnership with medicine smugglers who sell often expired treatment to private clinics from storage houses across the country.

Updated: October 16, 2022, 4:46 AM