‘He used to cry out and scream, ‘I am dying mum,’ Fatima Saleh Mohammed Al Kayal told the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Fatima explained how her son Mohammed had been suffering from a cancerous brain tumour which despite being removed following surgery in Egypt, eventually returned.
Prior to his illness, Mohammed had been trying to obtain a passport in order to leave the country. During this time, he also discovered a tumour. Fatima explains that in order to help her son, she sold her home and sent him to Egypt with his brother in order to get the treatment he needed.
It wasn’t easy with the closure of the airport and the difficulty of travelling across the country but eventually he arrived and received the operation. Two months after since the operation and their difficulty return to Yemen, the tumour had returned.
‘Again he was screaming in pain, “oh my back”’
Fatima explains that she took her son to the hospital in Sana’a for treatment. A second procedure was performed with the tumour once again removed. But, this operation led to more life threatening complications.
After a week recovering in Intensive Care, Mohammed was moved to a different part of the ward. It was there that he discovered that he was unable to move the lower part of his body, he was paralysed. His mother pled with him that she would take her son out of Yemen and get him the help he needed.
She recalls how her son Hamid made all of the preparations to head south to Seiyun, the documentation obtained, ‘we paid for everything.’
Mohammed was adamant that he couldn’t make it. With his quality of life deteriorating, Mohammed was determined to leave hospital and return home.
‘I cannot go to Seiyun again. I almost died on the way back. I will definitely die this time. Four days on the road and then two days to catch the flight. Just take me out of hospital.’ his mother recalls.
Sana’a airport closed
Fatima’s story about her son Mohammed, is just one of those told by Norwegian Refugee Council’s efforts to raise the dire need to re-open the Sana’a International Airport.
According to the organisation, around 32,000 sick people had died in the last three years because of the closure of the airport and Yemen’s airspace.
They state that these deaths were preventable had they been able to access medical treatment in countries like Egypt and India.
In a previous interview NRC spoke with the late Abdo Ahmen Mohammed Qassem, a Yemeni man with a life threatening liver illness.
He explained that many people have given up from leaving Yemen, both because of the journey involved and the difficulties faced along the way.
Qassem died in June 2019.
He was eating through a tube
In Mohammed’s last months, his mother recalls how her son was effectively eating through a straw because he couldn’t open his mouth.
Worse still, Mohammed was unable to breathe properly. His mother explained that they had to get hold of a respirator and oxygen tanks to help him breathe.
‘He told me that he had already prayed to God and he would live using an oxygen mask and asked me to bring him one. We brought two oxygen cylinders and he was breathing using these. This is the device we used when he was about to die. It requires electricity and helped him to feel better. When the electricity was off we used an oxygen cylinder. His brother Ateeq, may god bless him, brought five. He used to consume one everyday trying to cling to life.’
In his last days, Mohammed asked his mother to look after his children. She agreed.
‘Mum, I just want you to take care of my kids I don’t want them to suffer. I told him I will do my best and I was trying to convince him to go to Sana’a but he told me it was too tiring.’
Mohammed died in January this year. His mother now looks after his three children, two girls and a boy, Nawal 15, Ayah 10 and Abdul Khaliq 12.
Footage: Karl Schembri; Norwegian Refugee Council