Doctors Without Borders to run Aden's COVID-19 centre

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

An ambulance is parked outside a hospital in Aden on April 30th. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

An ambulance is parked outside a hospital in Aden on April 30th. [Saleh al-Obeidi/AFP]

Doctors with Borders (MSF) on Thursday (May 7th) announced it has taken over the management of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) isolation centre at Aden's al-Amal Hospital, following discussions with the authorities.

MSF head of mission in Yemen Thierry Durand on Thursday signed an agreement with Deputy Health Minister Ali al-Walidi regarding co-operation in efforts to combat the global pandemic.

Under the terms of the agreement, MSF will assume the full management of the isolation centre for the duration of the current health crisis, and will be responsible for paying and equipping the hospital staff.

Political tensions in Aden have negatively affected efforts to combat coronavirus, said Eshraq al-Sebai, spokeswoman for Yemen's supreme emergency committee for combatting COVID-19.

"It is a positive thing that MSF will now manage the centre, especially as it will provide the medical supplies and financial resources which the centre needs," she told Al-Mashareq.

"The capabilities of Yemen's health sector are poor and cannot cope with the spread of the pandemic," she said, noting that the co-operation and contributions of international organisations will help to shore up the sector.

Increase in cases of infection

To date, there have been 25 reported coronavirus infections in Yemen, al-Sebai said, including five who have died of the disease.

"Failure on the part of citizens to seriously deal with the situation and abide by the instructions of the committee and the health ministry will have catastrophic consequences," she warned.

"The increase of cases is the result of that failure, especially as the pandemic needs the concerted efforts of all, including citizens," she said.

Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani accused the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) of impeding efforts to contain the spread of the virus, thereby exposing millions of Yemenis to potential infection.

He accused the Houthis of handling the health crisis "as a political and military issue", and claimed they are "exploiting it to extort international organisations".

"The reports which we have received from hospitals and doctors reveal the danger of the outbreak in Houthi-controlled areas, and refute their claims about recording just one infection," he said.

"This shows a complete and stark disregard of the lives of millions of Yemenis, who must be informed on a regular basis of developments so they can be more careful and protect themselves," he added.

Fast-tracked funds to combat crisis

The Yemeni government and the Islamic Development Bank on Thursday agreed to re-allocate $32 million from previous projects, and make these funds immediately available to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The agreement was reached during talks held via videoconference between Minister of Planning and International Co-operation Najib al-Awaj and Islamic Development Bank president Bandar Hajjar.

Hajjar also agreed to provide a $3 million grant from the Islamic Solidarity Fund, together with another $200,000 grant and an additional contribution of $350,000 from the Philanthropist Project, which the bank manages.

"All the promised funds will be allocated as per the bank's mechanism to meet needs specified by the concerned Yemeni ministries," he said.

As part of precautionary measures, the Seiyun local council imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in all the valley and desert districts.

It announced that mosques would open at prayers times only, closed all congested areas and called on all people to abide by the precautionary measures and instructions set out by the health authorities.

The council also extended the closure of Hadramaut Valley crossings, but issued directives for taking humanitarian cases into consideration, including opening al-Wadia crossing with Saudi Arabia to allow stranded Yemenis to return home.

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