Yemen: Deaths Due to COVID-like Symptoms Surge in Aden as Hospitals Close

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 14, 2020) -- Officials in Aden have reported at least 385 people have died over the last week with Coronavirus-like symptoms. That’s over 50 deaths a day, a fivefold increase from the 10 deaths a day reported before May 7, 2020.

Several hospitals in Aden have closed down, and health staff are refusing to go to work due to lack of proper protective equipment, as the Coronavirus spreads in Yemen, Save the Children warns. 

Starting this week, the two main public hospitals are open but only providing emergency services, treating patients with fever but not those showing respiratory symptoms.

Patients admissions are suspended, even for pediatric services, and only urgent gynecological and obstetric services such as deliveries are still operating.

Most private hospitals in Aden have also closed or are only treating chronic cases with no respiratory symptoms or fever.

People have already reportedly died because they could not get the treatment they needed.

Mohammed Alshamaa, Save the Children’s Director of Programs in Yemen, said:

“Our teams on the ground are seeing how people are being sent away from hospitals, breathing heavily or even collapsing. People are dying because they can’t get treatment that would normally save their lives. There are patients who go from hospital to hospital and yet cannot get admitted. We're hearing of families who have lost two or three loved ones in the past few weeks.

These are all signs of a pandemic getting a grip on the country. The treatment centers we support are doing everything they can to get ready for what is to come, but we need protective equipment, beds, ventilators.”

Aden is currently facing the threat of conflict and lethal diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya and COVID-19. The spike in patients who died after showing symptoms such as respiratory issues, fever and weakness raises concerns that the number of coronavirus infections in the city might be considerably higher than reported.

As of May 13, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Aden is 41, including 5 deaths. Three more cases have also been reported in Taiz and Ibb. Nationwide, the World Health Organisation put the total number of confirmed infections to 72 cases, with 13 deaths.

The health infrastructure in the country is hardly equipped to handle the outbreak. Before the outbreak, only half of the health facilities in the country were fully operational and that number has gone down with hospitals closing. There are only 500 ventilators in Yemen, and just four labs for the whole country that do coronavirus testing. As of May 2, the number of reported Covid-19 tests completed was 200.

Some existing health facilities have been re-purposed into isolation centers. Thirty-eight COVID-19 isolation units have been set up across the country, and there are 520 ICU beds in total available for COVID-19 patients.

Save the Children is supporting four isolation units and some 75 health facilities across the country, and it is raising awareness about prevention measures against COVID-19.

Xavier Joubert, Country Director of Save the Children, said:

“COVID-19 is pushing this country even further into the abyss. The surging deaths in Aden suggest that the virus is spreading far faster and further than the number of confirmed cases. Hospitals are closing down and patients are being turned away or left to die.

The warring parties have hopelessly failed to implement a lasting ceasefire and that is directly leading to a spike in deaths, both from COVID-19 and other diseases – for which they should be held accountable. The violence needs to stop so the Yemeni people, health workers and aid organizations can focus on curbing the virus.

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