Yemen coronavirus: Death rates Aden could exceed its wartime fatalities

Local Editor

The Al Radwan cemetery has quickly expanded within the last few months, with new graves creeping nearer to the residential buildings that border it. “You can see my digging machine,” says Saleh. “Just now I dug 20 graves.”

Local medical authorities say that death rates in Aden are soaring this year, despite a relative lull in a war that ravaged the area in previous years.

In the first half of May, the town recorded 950 deaths — nearly four times up to the 251 deaths in the whole month of March, according to a Ministry of Health report.

Those 950 deaths in two weeks in May represent nearly half the number of casualties the city suffered in all of 2015, once the country’s civil war was raging.

Back then Aden was devastated by heavy fighting, its streets blasted by rockets and its houses peppered with bullets. Now the city’s biggest killers are silent.

On top of Covid-19, gleam mosquito-transmitted virus outbreak, called Chikungunya virus, and more than 100,000 known cholera cases over the nation. Many malnutrition centers and hospitals have closed due to funding shortfalls and doctors’ concerns about their personal safety from coronavirus. Flash floods this spring destroyed the city’s power grid.

“Yemen has faced wars and cannot handle three pandemics, economic collapse and a war and the coronavirus,” Dr. Ishraq Al-Subei, the official accountable for the a reaction to the disease told CNN.

The official Covid-19 death toll in southern Yemen stands at only 127. Health workers say they don’t really know what the particular number is, because of low testing capacity. But the huge surge in deaths in Aden is being regarded as a warning of worse in the future, as the health sector becomes overwhelmed and much more people die of treatable diseases.

In pursuit of a hospital bed

Hmeid Mohammed, 38, had an agonizing journey that started with a mild fever at home.

His family couldn’t find a hospital to simply take him to when his fever started initially to rise rapidly in early May. He was in a coma when that he was admitted by the sole hospital in Aden designated to treat Covid-19 at the time.

“They brought him back to life,” his brother-in-law Anwar Motref recalled.

He was clinically determined to have meningitis, yet another disease common in Yemen. As soon as that he showed signs of improvement, doctors advised him to leave a healthcare facility to avoid becoming infected with Covid-19.

About a week later, his health deteriorated. Again, the household went to different hospitals so that you can have him admitted, but with little success. Eventually they found him a bed in a emergency ward that he distributed to six others. Fluid filled his lungs and his kidneys were failing.

The family had the funds for treatment, but Aden’s hospitals were either closed or full. A search for admission to a hospital that could perform surgery and dialysis in time to truly save him failed.

Mohammed died in late May, robbing his three children and widow of the family’s only bread-winner.

“Who is to blame for all of this? We do not have a government or a state or anyone to help us in this country,” Motref said at the family home in the rocky hills around Aden.

“Who should we complain to? We are tired of this life. Every morning we wake up to hear of 10-15 people who died,” that he added.

Disappearing aid and a collapsing health sector

The guns in Aden are becoming quieter lately, but Yemen’s war have not gone away.

Five years of conflict has beggared the nation. Today more than half its population depends on aid to survive.

But the United Nations has become facing a potentially catastrophic shortfall in funds — around $1 billion — for this year. It is warning of a collapsing heath sector and the chance that Yemen’s death toll may possibly continue to rise dramatically — possibly exceeding the total amount of dead throughout five years of war, when the country endured that which was considered the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis.”

“We are a billion short of our minimum target,” Lise Grande, the top of the UN’s humanitarian operations in Yemen, told CNN. “So In the full time of Covid what this means is that we’re going to see approximately half of the hospitals which we’re currently supporting in the country closed down — and that’s likely to be happening in just the following few weeks.

“A week ahead of the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Yemen we ran out of money and had to stop allowances for 10,000 frontline health workers across the country. In the middle of Covid, it’s devastating,” she added.

There are just 60 hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19 in Aden, which has a populace of roughly 800,000. These come in two hospitals operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The city has 18 ventilators, all constantly used, according to MSF.

Doctors and aid workers say patients mostly seek hospital treatment in late stages of the illness, when it is likely too late to save them. And generally, there is no capacity to treat them.

“Most cases are rejected because you will find no available ventilators,” Dr. Farouk Abduallah Nagy, head of the isolation department at the Gomhuria Hospital, told CNN.

“The health sector was already weak before the outbreak. And it’s getting worse and worse. The health sector is collapsing,” said Caroline Seguin, MSF communications officer in Aden.

Outside the town, the fighting between southern separatists and the government rages on, compounding the effects of the ongoing five-year war between Houthi rebels in the north and the fractious coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the south.

More than 112,000 people have been killed in airstrikes, shelling and bombing, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

Hundreds of 1000s of people have been driven in to camps as refugees from the war. There they face the risks of endemic illness, malnutrition, and overcrowding — all ideal conditions for the spread of an ailment like Covid-19.

Mokhtar Ahmed, originally from the port city of Hodeidah in the north, came to a camp on the outskirts of Aden three years ago.

“Cholera and the wars are a very important factor and corona is another thing,” that he told CNN, flanked by his two children.

“With war, we moved in one place to yet another and we settled down… But with corona, wherever you go, it will find you.”

Ahmed Baider contributed to this report from Sanaa. Mahmoud Nasser and Mohammed Khaled contributed to this report from Aden.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by Website Team