"Fighting Smuggled and Counterfeit Medicines"... A Houthi play to blackmail health facilities

English - الأحد 19 مارس 2023 الساعة 10:14 ص
Sana'a, NewsYemen, exclusive:

The pharmacist, "Noman", did not find any way to resist the armed elements of the Houthi militia - Iran's arm in Yemen, who descended on his pharmacy that he has been running on a street in Sana'a for years, with the aim of closing it and expelling him to the street after he refused instructions to hand over illegal sums of money to Houthi supervisors.  

"Noman" explained that Houthi supervisors roam health and medical facilities in Sana'a and neighboring governorates in order to take royalties and levies, which the initiative called "convoys of medicine and food".  Where the Houthi militia forces the owners of pharmacies and drug stores to pay sums of money in favor of relief for the wounded on the fronts and to provide them with the necessary medical and pharmaceutical supplies."

He said, "I could not pay what they demanded of me, so several charges were fabricated against me, that I do not have licenses to practice the profession, and sometimes that I sell smuggled and lethal drugs... and other charges that are being prepared in preparation for closing the pharmacy and throwing me out into the street."

What happened to the pharmacist "Numan" coincided with campaigns of collection and extortion carried out by the Houthi militia against pharmaceutical facilities in Sana'a and Hodeidah in particular, as these militias closed dozens of companies within days.

The high cost of the local drug market in Houthi-controlled areas comes as a result of the royalties that are imposed, starting with customs fees, through royalties from health offices and ministry levies, tax extortion, and the looting of supervisors who take turns plundering this sector.  The severe restrictions on pharmacies' owners, manufacturers, and drug importers aim to enable the Houthi leaders and their loyalists to take over drug agencies and monopolize licenses, leading to the opening of pharmacies, in illegal ways.

Renewed crimes

 The Houthi militias, which control the health sector in Sana'a and several Yemeni governorates, are still innovating new criminal methods and methods that accompany each campaign.  And in the event that its demands for the payment of levies are not met, it immediately proceeds to raid the stores and loot the medicine items under the pretext that they are damaged.

Medical sources reported that, since the beginning of 2023, the Houthi militia has been carrying out campaigns of extortion and imposing collection on pharmaceutical facilities and companies - the private sector - in their areas of control, and the Houthi teams have closed 45 pharmaceutical facilities in Sana'a and Hodeidah Governorate.  Its owners were forced to pay royalties after malicious accusations were made against them.

Informed sources in Sana'a stated that field teams affiliated with the Houthi militia in the health sector, and the so-called Medicines Authority, carried out organized looting and collection campaigns that affected the owners of pharmacies, institutions, agencies, and drug stores (wholesale) in separate areas of Sana'a.

The campaigns targeted the closure and targeting of 6 wholesale stores in the Tahrir Directorate in central Sana'a, claiming that they did not obtain licenses to practice the profession.  The militia teams also looted and confiscated more than 42 tons of various medicines belonging to merchants and investors in Sana'a and Hodeidah.  As confirmed by the sources.

The sources accused the Houthi militia of looting tons of medicines for the purpose of trading some of them and selling them in the local markets, and distributing others for the benefit of their fighters on the fronts.

These campaigns came at a time when Houthi leaders in the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Medicines Authority vowed to continue it against the remaining workers in the drug sector in the rest of their areas of control, as those Houthi leaders justify their criminal behavior by saying that it comes in the context of what is called “monitoring the drug market, and controlling violations.”  and reduce negative phenomena.

Monopoly of the health sector

False pretexts highlighted by the Houthi militia to justify their campaigns against pharmaceutical facilities in the areas under their control, as the militias have tightened the screws on pharmaceutical institutions, their agents and manufacturers in Yemen in order to establish a pharmaceutical sector parallel to the official sector, through the establishment and creation of new agencies and the acquisition of this important sector.

According to sources in the Supreme Authority for Medicines in Sana'a, the pharmaceutical market has recently been flooded with low-quality products, most of which are Iranian medicines.  While the rest of the good and approved items were prevented and obstructed.

The sources confirmed that the Houthi militia has turned Yemen into a dumping ground for corrupt medicines, and this was evident in the victims who fell as a result of a corrupt dose for cancer children in Kuwait Hospital in Sana'a during the past year.  She explained that Iranian medicines, which were not previously available in the Yemeni market, are now in Houthi-controlled areas, accounting for a high percentage of nearly half of the medicine market.

She emphasized that more than 260 trade names belonging to chronic disease patients were absent from the drug market, and are no longer entering the Yemeni market due to the policy of the Houthi militia, which replaced Iranian medicines with them.

The Yemeni Society for Consumer Protection revealed, in previous statements, that there are suspicious parties - referring to the Houthi militia - that play an important and major role in flooding the local market with corrupt medicines, in addition to developing smuggling operations and importing counterfeit and counterfeit medicines in light of the record high prices and the disappearance of many  varieties.

According to sources in the Supreme Authority for Medicines, more than 70% of the medicines in the local market in the Houthi regions are counterfeited and smuggled, and unfit for human use, which endangers patients' lives.

Exposed play

 An official in the Pharmacists Syndicate in Sana'a - who asked not to be identified for fear of being attacked by the Houthis - believes that the arbitrary campaign carried out by the Houthi militia in the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Authority for Medicines, with the support of Houthi security agencies, including the Preventive Security Agency, is nothing but an open play to search for  Sources of financing and consolidating its control over the pharmaceutical trade in Yemen, noting that many factories, agents of international and Arab companies, and importers of medicines located in Sana’a and Hodeidah closed their activities or transferred them to the liberated areas due to the Houthi restrictions and arbitrariness.

The source explained that the local drug market has become flooded with counterfeit and smuggled items, most of which do not meet the specifications and were entered through official methods through Houthi leaders from the port of Hodeidah, and by new companies affiliated with those leaders that have become running the drug mafia in Yemen, indicating that looting approved medicines and withdrawing them from the market is its goal.  Making room for smuggled and Iranian medicines, without caring about their quality and their harm to patients’ health.

 Compelling evidence

The crimes and violations taking place in the health and medicine sector in the areas controlled by the Houthi militia were not far from the sight of local and UN reports, which revealed that the destruction of the health system is proceeding according to systematic plans prepared by the militias and prominent leaders who have controlled this important sector since the beginning of the war.

The recent report of the Security Council experts on Yemen revealed that there is compelling evidence of the selective war waged by the Houthi militia on health facilities in areas under its control in northern Yemen, explaining that the levies imposed on hospitals, pharmacies and drug importers aim at extortion and illegal fees.

According to the report, the Capital Municipality tax office in Sana'a imposed additional levies on 13 private hospitals, in addition to Houthi directives to close many pharmacies, drug stores, and agents of international companies.

The report emphasized that the crimes and systematic violations against the health sector in the Houthi areas will have dire consequences for the remaining health care that was damaged by the war.