MSF urges donors to boost Covid-19 response as second wave hits Yemen

Health workers report a sharp rise in the number of people seriously ill with coronavirus in the country

epa09094620 Yemeni nurses wearing protective face masks look out from a window of a hospital amid concerns over the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, in Sana’a, Yemen, 24 March 2021. COVID-19 infection numbers continues to increase, in a country that with six years of civil war, left its healthcare system in shambles.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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Hospitals in Yemen are being overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 cases at a time when the country lacks essential resources, including oxygen supplies and ICU ventilators, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned.

The international aid organisation also said there were not enough beds to accommodate the drastic rise in coronavirus patients.

“We are urging all medical humanitarian organisations already present in Yemen to rapidly scale up their Covid-19 emergency response,” Raphael Veicht, MSF's head of mission in Yemen, said on Saturday.

“International donors who had cut their humanitarian funding to Yemen must also act quickly,” Mr Veicht added.

A Yemeni woman wearing a protective mask stands next to a fully-veiled fellow Yemeni outside a hospital in Sanaa, as Yemen's coronavirus committee urged the government on March 24, 2021 to declare a public health "state of emergency" after a surge in  COVID-19 infections in the war-torn country. Six years of civil war has left Yemen's weak healthcare system in ruins, and this week the country reported more than 100 cases in a day, much higher than figures at the beginning of the year. / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAIS
Six years of conflict has left Yemen's weak healthcare system in ruins, leaving hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases. AFP

All aspects of the Covid-19 response are lacking and need greater international support, the humanitarian official warned – highlighting public health messaging, vaccinations and oxygen therapy.

“Support is needed across the board,” he said.

MSF is providing support to the Covid-19 treatment centre in Al Gamhouria hospital in Aden, which provides healthcare for up to 46 coronavirus patients, including 11 beds in the intensive care unit.

The team at the centre consists of more than 100 doctors, nurses and support staff, working around the clock.

“We are very grateful for this much-needed support by the health authorities in Yemen,” Mr Veicht explained, "Nevertheless, the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases over the past weeks is extremely alarming and worrying.”

Al Gamhouria hospital also hosts an isolation centre supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"The centre hosts about 100 patients, most of them arrived in very critical condition, they need lots of oxygen," Dr Zainab Al Qaisi, manager of the ICRC supported isolation centre in Al Gamhouria hospital in Aden told The National.

“We consume about 50 to 100 oxygen concentrators daily due to the drastic influx of new Covid-19 cases that have arrived in the centre recently," she added.

The Yemeni government's emergency committee for Covid-19 recorded 69 new covid-19 cases on Saturday.

The new cases were recorded in seven Yemeni provinces under control of the internationally recognised government.

'The sharp increase in Covid-19 cases over the past weeks is extremely alarming and worrying'

The committee recorded 19 new cases in Aden, eight cases in Shabwa, six cases in Al Mahrah and three in Al Dhala.

In Abyan, two new cases were reported and a single infection was recorded in Lahj province.

Data on new infections in provinces under the control of the Houthi rebels remains unavailable.

The total number of Covid-19 cases recorded in Yemen has now risen to 3,969.

The actual number of cases in the country is likely to be far higher than the reported figure because the level of testing remains low, with healthcare infrastructure badly hit by six years of conflict.

On Saturday, the emergency committee also recorded 12 deaths from the virus, including seven fatalities in Hadramawt province.