Health

Yemen appeals for help as COVID-19 cases rise

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A man wearing a protective mask receives humanitarian aid in Taez on May 8th, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. [Ahmad al-Basha/AFP]

Yemen's supreme emergency committee for combatting novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Sunday (May 10th) announced the number of confirmed infections in government-controlled areas of the country has risen to 51.

Eight of those people have died, and one has made a full recovery.

Separately, two infections, including one death, have been recorded in areas of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

In government-controlled areas, "17 [new] confirmed coronavirus cases have been recorded -- three in Hadramaut Valley, 10 in Aden, two in Lahj, including one death, and two in Taez", the committee said in a statement.

Three of the cases recorded in Hadramaut involved travellers who had come from Aden, Hadramaut governor Abdul Hadi al-Tamimi told Al-Mashareq.

They are now being isolated at the quarantine centre in Seiyun, he said.

"The [Hadramaut] health office's monitoring teams traced 39 contacts and imposed a two-week closure on the area where the cases were discovered as a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus," al-Tamimi said.

He urged Hadramaut residents to abide by precautionary and social distancing measures, calling on them to stay home and go out only when necessary.

In Taez province, the emergency committee announced two new cases, raising the total number of cases in the province to four, including one death.

Call for international assistance

Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced it will host a donor conference to support Yemen on June 2nd, AFP reported.

The conference will be held virtually in partnership with the UN, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The kingdom did not say how much money was expected to be raised from the event.

The Saudi announcement came as the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights appealed for humanitarian assistance.

It called on the World Health Organisation (WHO), King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSrelief), Emirati Red Crescent, Kuwaiti Relief Society and other international organisations to take immediate action to help Yemenis.

The ministry asked for help to secure medical care for coronavirus patients, provide tests on a large scale, supply health workers with protective gear, and provide hospitals with medical supplies and ventilators.

"The ministry is following with deep concern the spread of COVID-19 in Aden and other provinces across the country," the ministry said in a statement, warning that the potential for a catastrophic outbreak is high.

Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez warned of the rapid spread of coronavirus in Yemen, which is ill-equipped to cope with it following years of war with the Houthis that have devastated its health infrastructure.

"The international community has a responsibility to support Yemen in confronting this pandemic," he said, pointing out that even health systems in advanced countries have been struggling to handle the outbreak.

Health services and human rights

Al-Wadia crossing between Yemen and Saudi Arabia was reopened Saturday to allow stranded Yemenis to return after quarantine measures were implemented.

"Yemenis were allowed back in after the necessary accommodation was provided and precautionary medical and security measures were taken," said Hadramaut Valley and Desert Health and Population Office manager Hani al-Amoudi.

This includes a 14-day quarantine in a centre equipped "with a medical team, an intermediate care unit, lab equipment and a radiology section", he said.

The WHO and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) meanwhile called on Yemeni authorities to continue their long-standing acceptance and support of vulnerable communities, including migrants.

In a joint statement, the two organisations noted that the first coronavirus death in Sanaa was a Somali refugee, and said migrants are being stigmatised as transmitters of the disease and subjected to harassment and harsh treatment.

This has included "denial of access to health services, movement restrictions, and forced movements to frontline and desert areas, leaving them stranded without food, water and essential services", the statement said.

The Houthis' emergency committee on Saturday urged residents in areas under their control to stay at home after the first two cases were recorded. But no obligatory precautionary measures were taken.

Political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq that according to local doctors, recorded cases in Houthi-controlled areas are much higher than reported.

This explains the Houthis' call for people to stay at home, he said.

"The Houthi authorities are closing more neighbourhoods in Sanaa every day after transferring the suspected cases, along with their families, to quarantine and care centres," he noted.

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