Nearly 100 doctors and medical professionals have died in Yemen after contracting COVID-19, as the pandemic continues to cripple the war-torn country, according to new report that provides an insight to the scale of the pandemic in Yemen.
Already suffering a five-year-long war, Yeminis are living through what has been labelled as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The official COVID-19 numbers, published in a report by the charity MedGlobal, are said to stand at 1610 cases and 446 deaths. However, actual numbers are widely believed to be considerably higher, as a lack of centralised testing facilities and medical resources means that any figures are likely to be unreliable.
With the current figures, the mortality rate in Yemen stands at 27% – a worrying five times higher than the global average. These numbers come days after the United Nations characterised the situation in Yemen as the ‘perfect storm’, as war, hunger, flooding, economic collapse, locust swarms, and COVID-19 ravage the country.
The deaths of 97 medical staff – including doctors, midwives, gynaecologists, and epidemiologists –has shocked the remaining medical facilities in a country where only half of the medical infrastructure is functioning. With only 10 doctors for every 10,000 people before the start of the pandemic, this surge of deaths will have devastating exponential effects.
Dr Nahla Arishi, a paediatrician in the southern Yemeni city of Aden who had herself contracted COVID-19 and recovered, solemnly noted that the disease “shook countries with advanced health systems and services. What will it do to a country like Yemen that has lived in the shadow of war for five years?”
Dr Arishi added, “We have lost our best colleagues, people who can’t be replaced easily.” Amongst the doctors that have died are Dr Arif Ahmed Ali, a public health specialist; Dr Yassin Abdul Warith, a leading epidemiologist; and Dr Salem Saleh Muhammed al-Omari, the head of internal medicine at the University of Aden.
The loss of midwives and gynaecologists in particular is thought to have a devastating impact as currently 1 in 260 women die during pregnancy or childbirth. It is also feared that the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the cholera outbreak in the country and other diseases arising from malnutrition, as limited resources are diverted to coronavirus patients. About 18% of the 333 districts within Yemen are already without any doctors.
Dr Zaher Sahloul, the President of MedGlobal, noted that “diseases such as malnutrition and cholera and a lack of treatment for non-communicable illnesses such as heart disease and cancer are still killing more people than Covid-19.”
An analysis by the UN on Wednesday revealed that food shortages are expected to increase as a result of the pandemic and economic decline. The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and UNICEF have collectively reported that the number of people facing acute food insecurity is expected to increase from 2 million to 3.2 million in the next 6 months.
Ethar Relief is one of the main UK charities providing lifesaving support to the millions affected by food insecurity in Yemen. You can help save lives. Click here to find out more.