14 May 2020 - Yemen

Yemen: Deaths due to Covid-like symptoms surge in Aden as hospitals close

Press release

Officials in Aden have reported at least 385[1] 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 the 7th May.[2]

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

From 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 admission is suspended, even for paediatric services, and only urgent gynaecological 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.

Already, people have reportedly died because they could not get the treatment they needed.

Mohammed Alshamaa, Save the Children’s Director of Programmes in Yemen, says:

“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 centres 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[3], 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. Up until the outbreak, only half of the health facilities in the country were fully operational and that number has gone down since hospitals are 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[4].

Some existing health facilities have been re-purposed into isolation centres. 38 Covid-19 isolation units have been set up across the country, and there are 520 ICU beds in total available for COVID19 patients[5].

Save the Children is supporting four isolation units and some 75 health facilities across the country, and it’s 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 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 organisations can focus on curbing the virus.

It is also crucial to increase the testing capacity and supply of adequate protective equipment, not only in Aden but in the entire country.

If doctors are afraid to do their work and patients can’t get the treatment they need, malnourished children and other vulnerable patients will bear the brunt.

The spike in the number of deaths in the country is a tragic proof of the vulnerability of the population and the health system in Yemen.’

 

Notes to Editors:

Yemen is grappling with the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Approximately 80 percent of the population, about 24 million people, rely on humanitarian aid and 10 million children are on the brink of hunger, with 2 million children acutely malnourished. With the looming COVID-19 outbreak there have been several attempts to implement a ceasefire over the past weeks, but fighting hasn’t stopped, with tensions increasing between warring parties in the south.

To support Save the Children’s global COVID-19 emergency appeal, click here. 

Spokespeople available. For more information or to arrange an interview contact:

Randa Ghazy

r.ghazy@savethechildren.org.uk

+44 74 29980 655 (London)

Out-of-hours

Media@savethechildren.org.uk

+44 7831 650409 (London)

 


[1] Press Announcements of Civil Status and Civil Registry Authority in Aden, 7-12th May

[2] Civil Registration Department at Yemen’ Ministry of Interior

[3] Yemen’s Ministry of Health

[4] Yemen Humanitarian Country Team (HCT)

[5] https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-covid-19-preparedness-and-response-snapshot-9-may-2020-enar