UN: Yemen’s health system ‘has in effect collapsed’ as COVID-19 spreads

Yemen authorities have reported 184 cases including 30 deaths. Above, a health worker sprays disinfectant on a motorcycle in Sanaa on May 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

UN: Yemen’s health system ‘has in effect collapsed’ as COVID-19 spreads

  • ‘We hear from many of them that Yemen is really on the brink right now’
  • Yemen authorities have reported 184 cases including 30 deaths

GENEVA: Coronavirus is believed to be spreading throughout Yemen, where the health care system “has in effect collapsed,” the United Nations said on Friday, appealing for urgent funding.
Referring to aid agencies, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told a Geneva briefing: “We hear from many of them that Yemen is really on the brink right now. The situation is extremely alarming, they are talking about that the health system has in effect collapsed.”
“They are talking about having to turn people away because they do not have enough (medical) oxygen, they do not have enough personal protective equipment,” he said.
Yemen authorities have reported 184 cases including 30 deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO), its latest figures show. “The actual incidence is almost certainly much higher,” Laerke said.
The United Nations estimates that it will seek $2 billion for Yemen to maintain aid programs through year-end, he added.


Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

Updated 31 min 58 sec ago

Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

  • Five shepherds in the Henan valley were swept away as floods hit farms

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy rains and flash floods hit provinces in southern Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday, killing five people, displacing hundreds of families and isolating villages, local government officials told Arab News.

The heavy rain that began on Wednesday in Yemen's southern province of Hadramout triggered flash floods that killed five shepherds in the Henan valley and damaged farms.

“The five young men went to the valley to bring back their camels and sheep before floods washed them away,” Hesham Al-Souaidi, a local government official, told Arab News by telephone on Thursday.

Local authorities and residents found three bodies and are still searching for the other two.

Al-Souaidi said that flood waters destroyed farms and killed a large number of livestock in the agricultural Wadi Hadramout.

Southern Yemeni provinces have been bracing for the tropical depression since Saturday, when it hit Oman’s southern city of Salalah, as the country’s National Meteorological Center issued alerts, urging Yemenis to avoid traveling during the the storm and to avoid flood courses.

In coastal parts of Hadramout, hundreds of families living near flood channels were forced to flee to after flooding reached unprecedented levels.

Amen Barezaeg, a local government official assigned by the Hadramout governor to lead a relief committee, told Arab News that his team has documented the displacement of 450 families from Mayfa Hajer district alone, adding that the floods damaged roads, farms and isolated many remote areas in the province.

“We are now working on reopening roads to reach the isolated villages. The damage is huge,” he said.

Flash floods displaced dozens of families, washed away hundreds of palm trees and damaged dozens of houses in Hajr town, west of the city of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout province capital.

In some areas of Hadramout, residents said the floods were more destructive than those caused by cyclones over the last five years.

“We have never seen floods like this. Only the floods in 1996 were as strong as these,” Mohammed Bahamel, a journalist from Boroum Mayfa village, west of Al-Mukalla, told Arab News.

Heavy rains triggered flash flooding that wreaked similar havoc in Shabwa, Abyan and Aden, but with no reported casualties, according to local officials.

A government official in Shabwa province told Arab News that the floods washed away farms, isolated villages and damaged several houses.

In Aden, bulldozers were seen clearing mud from the streets as government officials inspected damage caused by the rain.

In April, the internationally recognized government declared Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, a “disaster” area after torrential rains and heavy flooding killed more than 10 people and damaged infrastructure.

Local health officials and residents say that the latest rainfall may set the stage for the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases that killed more than 1,000 people in May.

Wednesday’s floods destroyed the main road that links Hadramout province with Aden, disrupting movement of medical teams and vital medical supplies, including testing kits, officials said.

Meteorologists predicted that the rains would disappear on the weekend.

“Remnants of the tropical depression continue to produce rain across southwest Yemen. Rain will wane over the area on Friday,” Jason Nicholls, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said on Twitter on Thursday.