“Five years of fighting had caused Yemen’s healthcare system to collapse in large parts,” confirmed Claire HaDuong, Medecins Sans Frontieres’s head of mission in Yemen, adding: “Now COVID-19 has made that collapse complete.”
In a recent update published on MSF’s website on Wednesday, HaDuong stated that the collapse happened as: “Many hospitals closing for fear of the coronavirus or for lack of staff and personal protective equipment.”
She added: “Many people will die of this virus, but we fear that many others will also die from what should have been preventable deaths, because healthcare is simply not available.”
MSF asserted that it is doing all it can to keep the organization’s regular healthcare programs open and to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. However, it explained that it is difficult to bring staff and supplies into the country as the scale of the needs is too great for any single organization to respond to.
Meanwhile, according to HaDuong: There has been a strange mixture of fear and denial about the virus here. People haven’t wanted to accept the possibility that it could arrive or that it was already circulating.
She added: “But as soon as people have been faced with a case, it has caused panic. But then this is a country that lacks almost totally the means to respond to this outbreak, so it’s understandable that people are scared.”
HaDuong reiterated that MSF “cannot face this crisis alone,” stressing that the United Nations and other donor states: “Need to urgently find ways to step up the response, including through hands-on interventions of medical humanitarian agencies and support to the Yemeni health system with money to pay healthcare staff, equipment to protect them, and oxygen concentrators to help sick patients breathe.”
“The local authorities need to facilitate the work of international organizations like MSF who are working with them to respond to the virus. They need to ensure the entry of medical supplies and international staff to reinforce teams on the ground.”