Yemen's Minister of Health and Population Dr. Nasser Ba'aom, asked about what was being done to curb the phenomenon of khat chewing and its related diseases, at first said that Yemen had more pressing issues to deal with. After relenting and describing his ministry's actions to deal with such "dangerous social epidemics," he admitted to the Al-Ghad Al-Moshreq interviewer: "Oh yeah, I chew khat."
Interviewer: "Dr. Ba'aom, allow me to finish this interview with a question about a phenomenon that is widespread in Yemen – the khat plant. From time to time, we see reports about the illnesses associated with it. What have you done, since becoming Minister of Health, to curb this phenomenon and its related diseases?"
Dr. Nasser Ba'aom: "To tell you the truth, I haven’t done anything about it. I am entirely occupied with dealing with the emergencies stemming from the war: the treatment of wounded civilians, who have suffered indiscriminate bombardment by the coup supporters, or the treatment of people who come here from the battlefronts. In addition, we are fighting epidemics, especially the three main diseases that we are constantly facing: cholera, dengue fever, and malaria. When the war is over, we will be free to deal with dangerous social epidemics like the khat phenomenon. The war has forced us to restrict ourselves to that limited scope I described.
"Although this is not a priority for us, we have health awareness programs, we conduct TV interviews, we publish brochures, and we provide education everywhere about the dangers of khat. First of all, khat is sprayed with pesticides, which cause many illnesses, such as liver diseases, diarrhea, and so on. In addition, that social phenomenon causes poverty, and denies many families a source of income, which could have been used to improve their health, instead of being wasted on khat. I completely agree with you. This is a bad social phenomenon, and hopefully, we will be able to get rid of it when circumstances are back to normal."
Interviewer: "One last question, and you can choose whether to answer it or not. Do you yourself chew khat, Dr. Ba'aom?"
Ba'aom: "Oh yeah, I chew khat."