In Yemen Aden, coronavirus mortality rates are worse than wartime deaths

Anwar Motref helped his brother-in-law Hmeid Mohammed find a hospital bed in his last days. Now,  Mohammed's children are in his care.

The Al Radwan cemetery has expanded rapidly over the past few months, and new tombs have approached residential buildings that border it. “You can see my digging machine,” says Saleh. “I have dug 20 graves right now.”

Local medical officials say death rates in Aden have increased this year, despite the relative stagnation in a war that destroyed the ground in previous years.

According to the Ministry of Health report, the city recorded 950 deaths in the first half of May – about four times the 251 deaths of March.

These 950 deaths in two weeks in May represent almost half of the city’s casualties in the whole of 2015, when the country’s civil war continued.

At that time, Aden was devastated by heavy fighting, his streets exploded with rockets, and his houses were full of bullets. Now the city’s biggest killers are silent.

On top of Covid-19, there is also an outbreak of virus transmitted through mosquitoes. Chikungunya virusand more than 100,000 known cases of cholera across the country. Many malnutrition centers and hospitals have been closed due to deficiencies and concerns about doctors’ personal safety from the coronavirus. These spring floods destroyed the city’s power grid.

Health worker Dr. told CNN. “Yemen has faced wars and cannot deal with three pandemics, economic collapse, war and coronavirus,” Ishraq Al-Subei said.

The official Covid-19 death toll in South Yemen is only 127. Health workers say they don’t know what the real number is because of its low test capacity. However, the huge increase in deaths in Aden is seen as a warning that it is worse to come, as the health sector is overwhelmed and more people die from treatable diseases.

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Chasing a hospital bed

38-year-old Hmeid Muhammed went on a painful journey that started with light fire at home.

Her family could not find a hospital to take her when her fever began to rise rapidly in early May. He was in a coma at the time when he was admitted by the only hospital in Aden appointed to treat Covid-19.

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

Meningitis, another common disease in Yemen, was diagnosed. As soon as signs of recovery showed, doctors recommended leaving the hospital to avoid getting infected with Covid-19.

About a week later his health deteriorated. Again, the family went to different hospitals to have him admitted, but little was successful. They eventually found a bed in an emergency room, where he shared it with six other people. The fluid filled his lungs and his kidneys were failing.

The family had funds for medical treatment, but Aden’s hospitals were either closed or full. In order to save him, the prey to a hospital that was able to perform surgery and dialysis on time failed.

Mohammed died in late May, widowed his three children and the family’s only breadwinner.

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

“To whom should we complain? We’re sick of this life. We wake up to hear 10-15 people who die every morning.”

A lost aid and a collapsing health sector

Weapons in Aden have become quieter in recent months, but Yemen’s war has not gone.

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Five-year clashes begged the nation. More than half of its population today relies on help to survive.

But the United Nations is currently facing a potentially devastating fund shortage this year – about $ 1 billion. It points to the possibility that a shrinking healthcare sector and Yemen’s death wage may continue to increase dramatically – possibly the country’s total deaths over the five-year war, which was considered war “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.

“We are billion billion behind our minimum target,” Lise Grande, head of the UN humanitarian operations in Yemen, told CNN. “So in Covid’s time this means we’re going to see about half of the hospitals we currently support in the country will close – and this will only happen in the next few weeks.

“A week before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Yemen, we ran out of money, and we had to stop allowances for 10,000 front-line health workers across the country. In the middle of Covid, this is devastating.”

With about 800,000 inhabitants, Aden has only 60 hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19. These are in two hospitals operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). According to MSF, the city has 18 ventilators, all of which are in continuous use.

Doctors and assistants say that patients are seeking hospital treatment, mostly in the late stages of the disease, when it is too late to save them. And in most cases, there is no capacity to treat them.

Head of the isolation department of Gomhuria Hospital. “Most of the cases were rejected because there were no ventilators available,” said Farouk Abduallah Nagy.

Anwar Motref helped his brother-in-law, Hmeid Muhammed, find a hospital bed in the last days. Now Muhammad's children are in his care.

“Before the epidemic, the health sector was already weak. And it is getting worse. The health sector is collapsing.” Aden MSF communications chief Caroline Seguin said.

Outside the city, The struggle between the southern separatists and the government continuesit combines the effects of the ongoing five-year war with the Houthi rebels in the north and the fragile coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the south.

According to the Armed Conflict and Incident Data Project (ACLED), more than 112,000 people were killed in air strikes, bombings and bombings.

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Hundreds of thousands of people were deported to camps as refugees from war. There they face the risks of endemic disease, malnutrition and overcrowding – all ideal conditions for the spread of a disease like Covid-19.

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

“Cholera and wars are one thing and the corona is another,” he told CNN, who was surrounded by his two children.

“We moved from place to place with war and settled … But wherever you go with the corona, it will find you.”

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

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