TN nurses work amidst bombings in Yemen

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Hundreds of Tamil nurses are holed up in the military hospital at Sanna in strife-torn Yemen for over a week without proper food and water.

Worse still, there is constant fear of death as bullets and bombs keep flying around as the women are forced to duty for tending to the military personnel injured in the rebels’ attacks.

“We are facing death every second. A bullet missed my leg by a whisker. At least four or five shells hit our building. Many nurses have turned patients and there are no basic amenities,” said Anitha, 27, a native of Nagercoil, speaking to DC over phone.

Most of the nurses in the Yemeni hospitals are from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and a few other Indian states.

They have been recruited on a monthly salary of US$400 and comfortable quarters but now the situation has become terribly unstable due to the rebels’ violent campaign to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Protector of emigrants D. Jai Shankar in Chennai said he had received many SOS calls from the nurses stranded in Yemen.

27-year-old Ajitha, when she took the flight to Hajjah city in Yemen some nine months ago, nursed high hopes that the monthly salary of $400 promised for the nursing job in a hospital there would help her ailing father quickly repay his debt of Rs 5 lakh.

But as the rebels mounted violent campaign to unseat President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February, the life of Ajitha, and of hundreds of Indian nurses like her, turned into a nightmare as they were forced to work in harsh circumstances treating wounded government soldiers even as the militants bombarded the hospital and even their living quarters.

“The government forces kept shifting us from one place to another for safety. I moved four places in the last few days and even now, there are bullets and bombs flying all around. The rebels are firing at our building from across the road. I am not sure what will happen to me. A bullet missed my leg by a whisker,” Ajitha said in a phone interview from her hospital ward in Sanna city.

“The soldiers suddenly come and announce we must move to another safe place. We must pack up in minutes and run with them.”

Ajitha’s father Alagiya Nayagam, 57, said the family had lost hope of getting his daughter back safe and sound.

“We are shattered. We have no hope unless our government acts fast.” He needs her income from Yemen to treat his wife who is suffering from heart ailment and also to educate the youngest daughter.

“Many nurses from Yemen got in touch with us to say they are being forced to work in difficult conditions. They can get in touch with the 24-hour helpline in the Indian embassy,” D. Jai Shankar told DC in Chennai. “We can rescue the registered emigrants but it is tough to contact them.”

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