Yemen: COVID-19 support desperately needed as second wave overwhelms the country


ADEN – Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is seeing a dramatic influx of critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation in Aden, Yemen and many other parts of the country.   

“We are urging all medical humanitarian organisations already present in Yemen to rapidly scale up their COVID-19 emergency response,” says Raphael Veicht, Head of Mission of MSF in Yemen. “International donors who cut their humanitarian funding to Yemen must also act quickly.”

“All aspects of the COVID-19 response are lacking and need greater international support, from public health messaging, to vaccinations to oxygen therapy,” says Veicht. “Support is needed across the board.”

After six years of war, Yemen’s healthcare system has been crippled and the capacity to treat people in intensive care is limited. MSF is providing support to the COVID-19 treatment centre in Al-Gamhouria hospital. Our medical team is able to care for people in an 11-bed intensive care unit (ICU) and up to 46 patients in the inpatient department. All 11 ICU beds are currently occupied.  

“Unfortunately, many of the patients we see are already in a critical condition when they arrive,” says Line Lootens, MSF medical coordinator in Yemen. “Most patients need very high levels of oxygen and medical treatment. Some patients also require mechanical ventilation in the ICU, which is technically difficult and requires a very high level of care.”

MSF is calling on the Yemeni people to follow the COVID-19 prevention measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing and wearing masks, more rigorously. It is also important that patients with severe symptoms seek specialised medical care early on, in order to have a better chance of recovery from the disease. 

A member of the nursing staff adjusts oxygen levels for a critically ill patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit of Al-Gomhuria hospital. Aden, Yemen, August 2020. Photo: MSF/HARETH MOHAMMED

Our COVID-19 response is carried out with the support of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MoPHP) and the Al-Gamhouria General Hospital Management. Today, the team at the COVID-19 treatment centre consists of more than 100 doctors, nurses and support staff, working around the clock to respond to the needs.

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

“While some countries have successfully vaccinated half of their population, Yemen finds itself at the back of the queue for vaccines, highlighting again the global vaccine access inequality, with no one vaccinated in the country to date,” adds Veicht.

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