After 5 years of war, Yemen is again on the verge of famine, while the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the other epidemics going on since the beginning of the year – on all dengue, cholera and chikungunya – pushes the health care system to collapse. The alarm, launched by the humanitarian community, is based on the analysis of the economic situation in the country.
Due to the blockade of ports, ships aren’t allowed to bring in life-saving commodities. Inflation is rising: the price of a basic food basket has grown by 30%, and the central bank is out of money. Violence, famine and disease besiege a suffering population, with 24 million people, out of a total of 30, in need of humanitarian aid and with one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.
Even the official figures now record the increase in coronavirus cases (1500 confirmed with over 420 deaths). But the limited number of tests carried out – just over 2 thousand compared to the over 6 million carried out in Italy – suggests the real number are much worse. Reports from overwhelmed health facilities in many areas of the country, as well as other empirical data, such as the increase in funerals and burials, confirm the extent of the new emergency.
The pandemic has hit Yemen, and continues to grow: the peak of the infections has not yet been reached. The new health emergency affects a country where fighting and air raids continue on a daily basis, on the initiative of all the parties in conflict. And where the healthcare system is collapsing: only 50% of medical facilities are functioning, with an extremely limited offer of services and a widespread shortage of doctors and medicines.
INTERSOS response aims at strengthening community surveillance, early detection, referral and case management of COVID-19 confirmed severe and critical cases and at enhancing the overall COVID-19 response, applying robust measures to keep staff and beneficiaries healthy and safe, including preventative/protective information on COVID-19 and access to critical COVID-19 treatment for moderate, severe and critical cases, in addition to the common prevailing diseases affecting the population.
INTERSOS continues to support 20 health facilities, ensuring that triage and referral of COVID-19 cases is secured. These facilities continue to provide non-COVID health care services to prevent deaths from other deadly diseases, including cholera, diphtheria, dengue and malaria, to provide nutrition treatment to pregnant women and malnourished children and to offer reproductive health services – which includes support for emergency surgeries and safe delivery (both normal and caesarean).
INTERSOS also runs 2 mobile clinic teams in Aden that support IDP dwellings, providing for primary health care services. The main objective of all the intervention is contributing to the reduction of mortality and morbidity.
“Suppression” is a crucial term to describe this strategy: suppress the transmission of the virus by mobilizing community volunteers and influencers in order to explain to thousands of people across the country what the virus is, how it is transmitted and what can be done to stop its spread.
INTERSOS is currently supporting 6 community centers: safe public places where women, men, boys and girls come to engage in social and recreational activities and access to integrated protection services, including individual case management and/or collective psychosocial support, cash for urgent protection cases, and legal services.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, our center in Dar Sa’ad has started following prevention procedures when receiving beneficiaries, indirectly raising awareness about COVID-19 prevention in the larger community”, explains Lara Farouk Mohsen, a community volunteer., supporting INTERSOS’ intervention. During COVID-19 crisis, the spread of rumors and misinformation are common: when people started to seek information, the CC was the first place to approach. INTERSOS noticed an increased attendance of elderly people, women and people with chronic diseases, which are the most vulnerable. Many organizations close, suspended or scaled down programming due to COVID-19, pushing people in need of assistance to seek for support and services in other places.
“I am happy that we continue to assist people, even in this difficult situation”, Maryam Mohammed Salem, receptionist at the Community Center in Dar Sa’ad, emphasizes “With COVID-19, people have started to feel afraid to go out, as they don’t know enough about this epidemic. In our center, we mainly focus on protection needs, but we also act as focal point for others, referring those in need to relevant partners. At the end, it feels great that we can give reassurances to beneficiaries”.