Coronavirus and war in Yemen: A humanitarian catastrophe

Yemen has suffered years of  the war by Saudi-led coalition forces, poverty and cholera — and now COVID-19 is also rampant.

The coronavirus which has been in the country since mid-April is  problem of a people already made weak and vulnerable .In Yemen, we have virtually no possibility to carry out testing.

The catastrophic situation in the Yemen is getting barely any attention. “Perhaps the world is getting tired of always hearing the same terrible news from in Yemen.”

A full epidemic would wreak havoc on Yemen’s already vulnerable population and collapsing healthcare system. Nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s population relies on humanitarian aid, and over 20 million civilians are food insecure.

Meanwhile, only half of the country’s health facilities are operational, and those that remain are overstretched and unable to provide adequate care to those seeking it. To make matters worse, recent torrential rains and flooding, especially in Yemen’s south, present the additional threat of another cholera outbreak.

The charity’s main facility in the southern Yemeni city of Aden admitted 173 patients between April 30 and May 17, of whom at least 68 have died, Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, said in a statement.

“What we are seeing in our treatment center is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of people infected and dying in the city,” said Caroline Seguin, the group’s operations manager for Yemen. “People are coming to us too late to save, and we know that many more people are not coming at all: they are just dying at home,” she added.

Yemen’s official coronavirus caseload, among the lowest in the Middle East, is almost certainly misleading. As of May 28, the World Health Organization had recorded only 253 confirmed cases and 50 deaths among a population of 28 million. In neighboring Oman, authorities have confirmed over 8,000 cases with a population one-sixth the size. In northern Yemen and in southern , more and more people are falling ill and dying after having trouble breathing.

The coronavirus appears to have slammed into Yemen, a health care system in ruins, widespread hunger and outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases.

War-torn Yemen’s healthcare system has “in effect collapsed” and coronavirus is spreading across the country, the United Nations has warned.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), described the situation as “extremely alarming”.

He said people were being turned away from treatment centres partly because staff lacked protective equipment.

The country’s health system has been damaged by years of war and ventilators are in short supply.

Mr Laerke said Yemen’s economy was also suffering and efforts to combat the pandemic would fail without urgent help.

“If we do not get the money coming in, the programmes that are keeping people alive and are very much essential to fight back against Covid-19 will have to close.

“And then the world will have to witness what happens in a country without a functioning health system battling Covid-19. And I do not think the world wants to see that,” Mr Laerke said.

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Yemen’s health services had all but collapsed under the pressure of mass starvation and outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria — diseases considered obsolete in most of the world.

Lisa Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, has warned the country will struggle to fight a pandemic that could have even more serious consequences than in other countries.

Already devastated by war, malnutrition, cholera and other diseases, Yemen does not have the resources to withstand a highly-contagious virus that has even some of the world’s richest countries struggling.

Facilities like this are desperately needed in a country with a barely functioning healthcare system. Half of the country’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or shut over the course of the Saudi war in Yemen , —according to a May 18 UNOCHA situation report, Yemen currently has fewer than 150 ventilators, about 500 ICU beds, and only five labs capable of conducting COVID-19 tests.

Although the MSF center still lacks sufficient staff numbers and PPE, oxygen is its most urgent need. Every day, the agency says, its COVID-19 center gets through 250 40-liter oxygen cylinders. Yemen has a total stockpile of under 12,000 cylinders for the entire country.

The increase in suspected coronavirus cases in Yemen is sounding alarms throughout the global health community, which fears the virus will spread like wildfire among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The World Health Organization says its models suggest that, under some scenarios, half of Yemen’s population of 30 million could be infected with the virus and more than 40,000 could die.

the number of deaths occurring in the COVID-19 treatment center that MSF runs in Aden, Yemen, speaks to a wider catastrophe unfolding in the city,”  in a statement, calling on the United Nations and donor countries “to do more urgently to help the response.”

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders has issued a stark warning about the severity of the health crisis in Yemen.