Health officials in Yemen urge truce to fight virus

Health officials in Yemen urge truce to   fight virus
A Yemeni volunteer disinfects the interior of a public transportaion van in the capital Sanaa, amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, on March 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 31 March 2020

Health officials in Yemen urge truce to fight virus

Health officials in Yemen urge truce to   fight virus
  • Inside Houthi-controlled territories, health officials echoed the same concerns about the ability of the health system to fight the pandemic

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni health officials have urged warring factions to honor their commitment to an immediate truce to enable the country’s health workers to prepare for the coronavirus in Yemen.
Officials warned that the disease will infect millions of Yemenis and kill thousands as the conflict is hampering the country’s ability to fight the pandemic.
Last week, the internationally recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthis welcomed a UN call for a temporary halt of hostilities to help health workers prepare for a potential outbreak. “War must stop for us to catch our breath and face the pandemic,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, manager of Al-Sadaqa Hospital in Aden, told Arab News.
Dr. Wafaa said that her hospital was struggling with an influx of thousands of people
who had fled their homes in contested areas in Hodeida, Taiz, Lahj amid a severe shortage of staff and funds. When the war stops, Dr. Wafaa said, displaced people would return home, which would ease pressure on health facilities. “The war has set the stage for the spread of diseases and plagues that we have never seen before,” he said.
Inside Houthi-controlled territories, health officials echoed the same concerns about the ability of the health system to fight the pandemic. Dr. Fuad Edris, the director of the provincial office of the Ministry of Health in the central province of Baydha, called for the establishment of a joint emergency command room for handling the virus.
“We are in support of stopping the war or any peace initiative,” Edris told Arab News. “There should be at least one command room. The heath sector should remain neutral,” he said, warning that weaker security measures at the country’s sea, land and air posts would allow coronavirus-infected people to enter the country.
Dr. Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, told Arab News that Houthis had asked local drug agencies to keep their stock of ventilators in Sanaa. “If there is no war, there would be a fair distribution of medical equipment,” Al-Jariri said.
“We are receiving war victims and patients from battlefields or areas with no functioning health facilities,” Al-Jariri said, adding that warring factions should focus their attention on imposing strict preventive measures inside cities under their control.
Despite agreeing to the UN truce call, fighting raged on Monday on most battlefields, prompting the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to issue a statement. “I am gravely dismayed and disappointed by these actions at a time when the Yemeni public’s demands for peace are unanimous and louder than ever before. Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak,” Griffiths said.


Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
Updated 19 min 31 sec ago

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Top Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
  • In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season

BEIRUT: Death stalks the corridors of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where losing multiple patients in one day to COVID-19 has become the new normal. On Friday, the mood among the staff was even more solemn as a young woman lost the battle with the virus.
There was silence as the woman, barely in her 30s, drew her last breath. Then a brief commotion. The nurses frantically tried to resuscitate her. Finally, exhausted, they silently removed the oxygen mask and the tubes — and covered the body with a brown blanket.
The woman, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, is one of 57 victims who died on Friday and more than 2,150 lost to the virus so far in Lebanon, a small country with a population of nearly 6 million that since last year has grappled with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season when restrictions were eased and thousand of expatriates flew home for a visit.
Now, hospitals across the country are almost completely out of beds. Oxygen tanks, ventilators and most critically, medical staff, are in extremely short supply. Doctors and nurses say they are exhausted. Facing burnout, many of their colleagues left.
Many others have caught the virus, forcing them to take sick leave and leaving fewer and fewer colleagues to work overtime to carry the burden.
To every bed that frees up after a death, three or four patients are waiting in the emergency room waiting to take their place.
Mohammed Darwish, a nurse at the hospital, said he has been working six days a week to help with surging hospitalizations and barely sees his family.
“It is tiring. It is a health sector that is not good at all nowadays,” Darwish said.
More than 2,300 Lebanese health care workers have been infected since February, and around 500 of Lebanon’s 14,000 doctors have left the crisis-ridden country in recent months, according to the Order of Physicians. The virus is putting an additional burden on a public health system that was already on the brink because of the country’s currency crash and inflation, as well as the consequences of the massive Beirut port explosion last summer that killed almost 200 people, injured thousands, and devastated entire sectors of the city.
“Our sense is that the country is falling apart,” World Bank Regional Director, Saroj Kumar Jha, told reporters in a virtual news conference Friday.
At the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the main government coronavirus facility, there are currently 40 beds in the ICU — all full. According to the World Health Organization, Beirut hospitals are at 98% capacity.
Across town, at the private American University Medical Center — one of Lebanon’s largest and most prestigious hospitals — space is being cleared to accommodate more patients.
But that’s not enough, according to Dr. Pierre Boukhalil, head of the Pulmonary and Critical Care department. His staff were clearly overwhelmed during a recent visit by The Associated Press, leaping from one patient to another amid the constant beep-beep of life-monitoring machines.
The situation “can only be described as a near disaster or a tsunami in the making,” he said, speaking to the AP in between checking on his patients. “We have been consistently increasing capacity over the past week or so, and we are not even keeping up with demands. This is not letting up.”
Boukhalil’s hospital raised the alarm last week, coming out with a statement saying its health care workers were overwhelmed and unable to find beds for “even the most critical patients.”
Since the start of the holiday season, daily infections have hovered around 5,000 in Lebanon, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The daily death toll hit record-breaking more than 60 fatalities in in the past few days.
Doctors say that with increased testing, the number of cases has also increased — a common trend. Lebanon’s vaccination program is set to begin next month.
The World Bank said Thursday it approved $34 million to help pay for vaccines for Lebanon that will inoculate over 2 million people.
Jha, the World Bank’s regional director, said Lebanon will import 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines for 750,000 people that “we are financing in full.” He added that the World Bank also plans to help finance vaccines other than Pfizer in the Mediterranean nation.
Darwish, the nurse, said many COVID-19 patients admitted to Rafik Hariri and especially in the ICU, are young, with no underlying conditions or chronic diseases.
“They catch corona and they think everything is fine and then suddenly you find the patient deteriorated and it hits them suddenly and unfortunately they die,”
On Thursday night, 65-year-old Sabah Miree was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. She was put on oxygen to help her breathe. Her two sisters had also caught the virus but their case was mild. Miree, who suffers from a heart problem, had to be hospitalized.
“This disease is not a game,” she said, describing what a struggle it is for her to keep breathing. “I would say to everyone to pay attention and not to take this lightly.”
A nationwide round-the-clock curfew imposed on Jan. 14 was extended on Thursday until Feb. 8 to help the health sector deal with the virus surge.
“I still have nightmares when I see a 30-year-old who passed away,” said Dr. Boukhalil. “The disease could have been prevented.”
“So stick with the lockdown ... it pays off,” he said.