With violence in Yemen quickly approaching a full-blown civil war, the New York Times has a piece out on the use of one Sana mosque as field hospitals:
In its early days, the field hospital was much less organized; doctors would trip over the wounded laid out on the stone floor. But the government’s continued reliance on lethal force has given the staff practice, and so the doctors and nurses move more easily around the small space now, practiced in the chaotic choreography of battlefield medicine.
“The most important thing is to be in the field of the injury — immediate care saves lives,” said Tarek Noman, a Western-educated doctor who conducts triage on the patients, to determine who needs to be treated first.
Religious institutions have a long history of sheltering medical facilities during conflicts. From Bastogne to Tahrir Square, churches and mosques have provided ideal locations for setting up field clinics. First, the open interiors of most religious buildings, used in more peaceful times for believers to gather, offers an excellent area to setup medical equipment. Second, the connection between religion and sanctuary makes religious building a natural destination for those needing help and protection. Third, the prominence (and often sheer size) of religious buildings means their location is often common knowledge amongst residents. Finally, religious institutions often have a strong norm of neutrality and protection from violence. Combatants are more likely to think twice about firing on a house of God than on an office building.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.