Yemen: the devastation caused by epidemics

Published on Tuesday 23 June 2020

AN AGGRAVATED CRISIS While seasonal epidemics regularly strike Yemen, the arrival of the Covid-19 plunges populations into an even more dramatic health situation than before.

Malaria, dengue fever, cholera and even chikungunya … Enmeshed in a war that drags on, Yemen is regularly hit by major surges of epidemics.  These cause excess mortality in the populations; they are linked to the rainy season and the heavy floods which started this year in March and are expected to intensify until Augus. ‘’When there are overlapping epidemics, access to water is essential. However, 40% of Yemenis do not have any access to facilities that have soap and water, and 18% of them do not have any facilities at all”, said Lucie R., our Country Director in Yemen.

A health system that has been bled dry

The arrival of the Covid-19 is an aggravating factor. At the time of writing, 127 deaths and 524 confirmed cases have been reported in the country. But these figures could be an underestimate due to Yemen’s lack of resources at all levels.

Yemen’s hospitals and health centres are mostly under-equipped and lack staff. For example, in Aden, very few hospitals are able to care for patients suspected of being infected with Covid-19. ”Hospitals have closed or refuse to take patients for lack of means’’, Lucie explains. Access to basic services is already severely hampered by conflict, and the Covid-19 epidemic is exacerbating the problem.

In this situation the spread of the virus could be dramatic. Contingency measures have been put in place (curfew, movement restrictions, etc.) but compliance is not widespread. ‘’It is impossible when it is 40 degrees, there is no electricity and the main source of an individual’s income is their daily work”, Lucie spells out.

  • 32.98 million inhabitants
  • 183rd out of 191 countries on the Human Development Index
  • 341,280 people helped

‘’Stopping our operations would be devastating’’

Faced with these seasonal epidemics, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been intervening for several years to ensure access to drinking water, hygiene and sanitation for vulnerable populations in southern Yemen. Our teams, as well as being experts in the fight against cholera and water-borne diseases in general, also carry out essential prevention and inspection activities. With the arrival of Covid-19, they strengthened their activities (access to water but also the refurbishment of health centres and the distribution of hygiene kits) while implementing the necessary social distancing and protective measures.

‘’We discussed whether we should stop our activities to protect our teams and our beneficiaries from the Covid-19 pandemic, but that would be devastating for the populations’’, concludes Lucie. All the more so as the global economic crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic is beginning to spill over into the country, which is largely dependent on international aid.

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