Dengue fever outbreak swamps Yemeni hospitals

A Yemeni barber cuts a customer's beard while wearing a face mask and gloves amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on April 4, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2020

Dengue fever outbreak swamps Yemeni hospitals

  • Hospital administrators have set up a special tent to handle dengue fever cases in a bid to help ease fears and pressure in emergency rooms

AL-MUKALLA: An outbreak of the deadly dengue fever in Yemen is putting the country’s strained health system under huge pressure as it prepares for the prospect of dealing with a flood of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients, doctors have warned.
Health workers at Ibn Sina hospital in Al-Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s southeastern Hadramout province, staged a protest calling for staff to be issued with personal protective equipment (PPE) after they were forced to treat a patient who died with suspected COVID-19, without having even gloves or masks to wear.
Recent flash floods across Yemen have led to a new wave of dengue fever that has killed as many as 59 people and infected more than 7,400 others. The virus, spread by mosquitoes, causes respiratory problems and symptoms very similar to COVID-19.
Due to a lack of cash, local health authorities in Yemen have been unable to carry out vital insecticide spraying and they are calling for immediate intervention from the Yemeni government and international aid organizations to curb the spread of dengue fever before the number of patients with the disease overwhelms hospitals.
Tawfeeq Balteour, a doctor at Ibn Sina Hospital, said that although tests later found the young male patient had died from dengue fever and not COVID-19, worried medics held a demonstration the next day appealing for PPE.
“The (hospital) administration says it will release its stock of the equipment (PPE) when the first case (of COVID-19) occurs,” said Balteour, who joined the protest. “Seasonal fever deaths are causing fear among doctors.”
Officials told Arab News there was a severe shortage of PPE and the hospital was conserving stocks until new World Health Organization (WHO) supplies arrived.
Aden, Taiz, Lahj, Hadramout, Abyan and Shabwa have been the areas worst affected by the latest outbreak of dengue fever said Dr. Yasser Abdullah Baheshm, director of the Aden-based National Malaria Control Program, adding that 42 people had died from the disease in Aden alone. Doctors in Yemeni hospitals are becoming increasingly wary about treating patients showing symptoms of COVID-19.

BACKGROUND

Health workers at Ibn Sina hospital in Al-Mukalla staged a protest calling for staff to be issued with personal protective equipment (PPE) after they were forced to treat a patient who died with suspected COVID-19, without having even gloves or masks to wear.

Farouq Qaid Naji, a doctor at Al-Jumhuriya Hospital in the port city of Aden, told Arab News: “We receive at least 25 new cases (of dengue fever) daily. Each new case frightens doctors, nurses and health workers.”
Hospital administrators have set up a special tent to handle dengue fever cases in a bid to help ease fears and pressure in emergency rooms.
Baheshm called for swift Yemeni government action to tackle the spread of dengue fever in case COVID-19 sweeps the country.
“Health facilities are burdened with dengue fever cases and the diseases have distracted attention and efforts to fight COVID-19. Most of beds at Ibn Sina hospital are taken by dengue fever patients. We need those beds for coronavirus patients.
“After the recent rains and floods, I expect the number of cases and deaths will increase rapidly. We are urgently in need of a health education campaign. We also seek to target vector breeding sites and launch indoor and outdoor fogging spray,” he added.


Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.