Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 September 2020

Yemen: government appeals for help as coronavirus cases rocket

EU has already pledged assistance in response

A Yemeni wears a protective face mask amid the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA
A Yemeni wears a protective face mask amid the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA

The Yemeni government has appealed to the international community for help in dealing with a surge of coronavirus cases across the war-ravaged country.

Yemen has only officially registered 130 cases of the virus and 20 deaths, but health infrastructure problems caused by a long conflict between the government and Houthi rebels are hindering tests.

WHO models project half of Yemen’s 30 million population could become infected, resulting in more than 40,000 deaths.

Yemen’s Health Minister Nasser Ba’aom and Minister of Local Administration Abdul Raqib Fatah made the plea for international assistance on Sunday.

“We need PPE supplies, ventilators and finance for the medical workers who work in the Covid-19 centres,” Dr Ba’aom said.

“We also need medical equipment such as a complete biological unit, testing kits, field hospitals, beds for the ICUs.

"Additionally, we still need food aid as well as water, sanitation and hygiene equipment.”

The appeal followed similar pleas from medical staff in treatment centres across government-controlled areas.

“We have been facing a severe shortage in the medical supplies needed to handle with Covid-19 cases," a doctor in Aden told The National.

"The testing equipment and kits are very few.

"We also need personal protective equipment, and equipment with all the medical solutions needed to test suspected cases.

“Many suspected cases arrive in the centre on a daily basis but we do nothing for them because we don’t have testing materials that enable us to identify whether the patient has Covid-19 or another disease."

Health authorities in Yemen face additional challenges battling the pandemic during the war time.

They also have a lack of experienced and qualified medical staff, and those who are qualified fear they will catch the virus.

“We face a lot of challenges in the fight to curb the pandemic. We don’t have a clear strategic vision for health so far,” said Dr Jamal Khadabakhish, Aden’s health director.

Coronavirus around the region: in photos

“The rapid spread of the pandemic in the country added new challenges.

"Some public sector medical staff still refuse to go to their workplaces. They still have a pandemic phobia even though we provided them with enough personal protective equipment.”

Dr Khadabakhish said medical staff were afraid to work because of the large number of deaths among their colleagues.

Other regions reported different issues.

“We have the testing kits but we really face a shortage in personal protective equipment,” said Dr Riyadh Al Gerari, head of the Supreme National Committee Combating Covid-19 in Hadramawt.

The Ministry of Health reported six new cases in Hadramawt on Sunday, raising the number of recorded cases in nine government-controlled provinces to 128. Two more were reported on Tuesday.

The EU responded quickly to the government’s appeal, promising €55 million (Dh220.8m/US60.1$m) to “build a strong and co-ordinated European response in Yemen”.

“The EU will reorient ongoing support to help Yemen respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in the immediate and short-term,” the bloc said.

“Ongoing projects in the health sector will be recalibrated focusing on training medical staff, strengthening the network of community healthcare workers, strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities, improving health services and empowering local development.”

Updated: May 20, 2020 04:24 AM

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