Around 8 years ago I started working with the son of Yemen Ambassador to the UK, I would go see him in their vast mansion in Hampstead, one of London’s wealthiest areas. They provided him with a private driver and had several maids who saw to his every whim. He had some of the most severe learning disabilities, profound Autism and communication difficulties of anyone I have ever worked with. He hadn’t experienced a normal life at all.
I used to spend hours with him while he screamed, bashed his head against windows and ran around experiencing massive amounts of anxiety while I struggle to find a way into him, to help him feel safe and understand me, and that I would keep him safe.
Over several years we made breakthroughs, I trained a team of staff to work with him as I had several other very complex individuals to work with. Every piece of information about him was taken into account to help him cope. Eventually the behaviours reduced, he began to learn skills. Making a cup of tea without eating all the sugar in the bowl was an achievement, or going for a short walk around the block. Eventually, he even started to speak, even if he just said “Hi” it was massive.
The political situation in the Yemen changed and the family had to return there. His family wanted him to stay, to remain with us so he could keep making progress and be safe, they knew things weren’t going to be good. It wasn’t possible for this to happen and the family had to leave. We gave them a vast amount of strategies, information and tools to pass onto someone to help him continue all the progress he had made.
As they left I implored that they keep in touch and tell me what happens to him. I never heard from them again.
In 2015 a civil war broke out there, 25% of the population are displaced, 35,000 families are homeless, there is famine across the country. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/16/yemen-conflict-7-million-close-to-famine
Before I met Mazen and his family I didn’t know much about Yemen. Politics wasn’t a big focus of my life even though it’s always important if you work in social care but it’s not where my mind was at the time. Since then I have become more politically focussed and have followed this crisis.
I remember as a child watching the famine ravaging Ethiopia in the 1980’s and thinking then how shocking it was that people could starve, yet this continues across the world. I was inspired by Mazen, he was one of my greatest achievements in making progress despite his struggles and it got me thinking more internationally, what kind of services does a country like Yemen provide for disabled people? Right now, none. People are starving and dying, social care isn’t going to be a priority for the most needy and this is tragic. I often thought I could go somewhere like that and help the powers that be to put in the systems and approaches they need to offer the right kind of support, to see people with disabilities as valued and important members of their society.
This crisis is horrifying, and I wonder what happened to Mazen. It may be he is in another mansion, maybe not even in Yemen anymore. Should countries like the UK and the USA intervene in these types of crisis in the Middle East? I don’t know, I do know that isn’t simple. I worry about all the people starving homeless and dying there, but particularly I think about the struggle of the already vulnerable in such a situation. I know Mazen wouldn’t cope with it.
This is from the website of the current Ambassador in the UK.
“The United Kingdom has been a trusted and valuable friend of the republic of Yemen. It has played an important role through different phases; one of the most important is the formation of the friends of Yemen group, in order to enhance the political and the development process in the country. The United Kingdom also creates programs to address the challenges, which face the Yemeni economic sectors.
There are growing opportunities for United Kingdom companies and professionals to contribute to the next stage in the growth of Yemen.
Our mission here at the Embassy in London is to assist in the strengthening of our mutual interests of friendship and commerce so I warmly invite you to explore our website, which will assist you with your queries on the Republic of Yemen.
Dr. Yassin Saeed Noman Ahmed
Yemen’s ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”
Would rather suggest we should be involved, our good “friends” are dying, even if the website doesn’t really discuss that.
Not only should a country like the UK help in a crisis situation we should actively work with others to show the way of supporting all vulnerable people. Politics is complex, but being a decent human isn’t.