Yemen: MSF calls on support as COVID-19 second wave overwhelms medical facilities
Staff work to treat a COVID-19 patient in Aden's Al Gamhouria hospital, Yemen. © Hareth Mohammed/MSF
“We are urging all medical humanitarian organizations already present in Yemen to rapidly scale up their COVID-19 emergency response. International donors who cut their humanitarian funding to Yemen must also act quickly,” says Raphael Veicht, Head of Mission of MSF in Yemen. “All aspects of the Covid-19 intervention are lacking and need greater international support, from public health messaging, to vaccinations to oxygen therapy – support is needed across the board.”
After six years of war, Yemen’s healthcare system has been crippled and the ICU treatment capacity is limited. MSF is providing support to the COVID-19 Treatment Centre in Al Gamhouria hospital. Its medical team is able to care for 11 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and up to 46 patients in the inpatient department. Currently all 11 ICU beds are fully occupied.
“Unfortunately, many of the patients we see are already in a critical medical condition when they arrive”, says Line Lootens, Medical Coordinator of MSF in Yemen. “Most patients need very high levels of oxygen and medical treatment. Some patients also require mechanical ventilation at the ICU, which is technically difficult and requires a very high level of medical care.”
MSF is calling on the Yemeni population to follow the COVID-19 prevention measures such as social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks more rigorously. It is also important that patients with severe symptoms seek specialized medical care early on in order to have a better chance of recovery from the disease.
MSF’s 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 center consists of more than 100 doctors, nurses and support staff together, working around the clock to respond to the needs.
“We are very grateful for this much needed support by the health authorities in Yemen. Nevertheless, the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases over the past weeks is extremely alarming and worrying”, says Raphael Veicht, Head of Mission of MSF in Yemen. “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.”
The Al Gamhouria COVID-19 treatment center, in Aden was established by MSF in 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. It was later handed over to the Ministry of Public Health and Population when the health situation improved. Following the sharp increase of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of this month, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on March 15th with the MoPHP and the Al Gamhouria hospital management to re-launch a Covid-19 emergency intervention.
To be able to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients, MSF has deployed a COVID-19 emergency team into Aden, consisting of 1 Medical Coordinator, 2 ICU medical doctors, 2 ICU nurses and 2 logisticians.