Al Houthi mine shatters Yemeni boy’s football dreams

Al Houthi landmine outside his home left Ziyad, 13, crippled and blew away his dreams of becoming a footballer in an instant

New Delhi: On a bright winter morning in 2015, Ziyad Khalid was playing football with his friends outside his house in Aden, Yemen, when he found a landmine planted by Al Houthis and never stepped out on a field again.

Unaware of what the strange-looking device was, Ziyad curiously unearthed the landmine, triggering an explosion that blew away his left leg and badly mangled the right one.

“Those were still early days of the war and my son was young; he had never seen a landmine before and when he saw the device, he unwittingly tried to pull it out, resulting in the explosion that crippled my child forever,” said Ziyad’s father Khalid Salem, fighting back tears.

Aged 10 at the time of the horrific accident, Ziyad was a class five student and dreamt of becoming a footballer. But the explosion shattered those dreams forever.

“My son loved playing football and would spend hours practising. I used to scold him for spending so much time playing and now he can’t anymore,” added Salem, who was a schoolteacher before Al Houthis threw out the elected Yemeni government that led to the civil war.

Among a batch of 74 patients who arrived in India on July 5 for specialised treatment as part of the UAE government’s humanitarian mission for the Yemeni war victims, Ziyad is currently admitted at VPS Rockland Hospital in Saket, New Delhi.

Ziyad, now 13, has undergone a series of surgeries on what remains of his right leg and has been wheelchair-bound for three years now.

His father hopes that Ziyad’s right leg regains strength and using a prosthetic limb for his left leg, he could get back on his feet, which doctors believe would be possible in a few weeks.

“Ziyad is here for revision surgeries on his right leg. Our aim is to get his right leg back in shape and give him a prosthetic limb to replace his amputated left leg, so that he walks back home,” said Dr. Tamorish Kole, Chairman, Institute of Emergency Medicine at VPS Rockland.

VPS Rockland group of hospitals is facilitating the Emirates Red Crescent’s mission for Yemeni war victims, which has provided treatment and rehabilitation for more than 3,000 war victims so far, including 250 who have recuperated in India since April last year.

Yemen’s three year-long conflict has killed at least 5,000 civilians, while around the same number of children are estimated to have either died or injured in the conflict. The civil war has also left thousands homeless and has brutally crippled many dreams, like those of Ziyad.

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