Ahmed Mandal has worked with MSF’s medical team in Yemen as a general practitioner and intensivist. He tells us what is involved in running a busy emergency room in a mountainous region of the country.
Medical team at Al Dhale, Yemen. Ahmed Mandal is second from left © MSF
It was Michael Jackson’s song “heal the world” that inspired me to become a doctor and I worked very hard to achieve my dream. In 2010, while I was working in Dhaka in Bangladesh, the Haiti earthquake hit the headlines. I remember watching the news bulletin with my brother. During an advertisement break, he asked me “Hey! You are a doctor. How come you are not helping them?” I had no answer.
The question continued to bother me. I realized I had to do something about it and contacted MSF, which I knew helps with medical needs in critical situations. After a series of interviews and training, I was ready for my first assignment in Yemen.
The memories are still fresh in my mind. MSF works in Al Dhale, which is 3 hours north of Aden. Our medical team works alongside staff at a government-run hospital for secondary care, which includes health services such as childbirth, intensive care and medical imaging. The medical team also undertakes surgeries that are not complicated or life-threatening.
I worked as a supervisor in the emergency room (ER). My main responsibility was clinical management of that department, including supply of medicines. The ER saw patients with all kinds of problems, from people with common cold, fractures, respiratory tract infections and dog bites to malnourished children and victims with gunshot wounds and head injuries. Most patients come with injuries from road accidents, since the mountainous roads there are narrow, rocky, slippery and winding.
Round-the-clock medical care
My day would usually start at 6.30am in the morning. I would get ready and head straight to the ER for the handover from the night shift doctor to the morning shift doctor. I would check about patients admitted during the night, medicine supplies and the nursing staff on duty. Most patients were aware that MSF runs an ER and provides free consultations and treatment and they come from across the governorate.
The mountainous terrain in Al Dhale, Yemen © MSF
Around 5pm in the evening, I would return to the staff residences and spend the evening with team members. We would sit on the roof and I would spend hours gazing at stars.
I also worked for some time at a primary healthcare centre (PHC) in Al Azareg, which is around 14 km from Al Dhale. At this center, we mostly treat women, children and adolescents. We run a maternity ward where pregnant women come for regular checkups and normal child delivery. At the outpatient department, we see patients with various common ailments, such as cold, fever, cough, diarrhea, bruises and fractures.
Most patients travel from other towns to the health centre. They walk or get together and hire a vehicle. Some patients travel as much as 3 hours for treatment at the health centre.
During my time at the two health facilities in Yemen, I saw the difference MSF is making in the lives of thousands of people. In Yemen, people refer to MSF as Malakul Rehma, which means angels of mercy in the local language. I feel honored to have helped make a difference and cannot wait to go on my next assignment.