Yemen

Supporting health workers - the backbone of the COVID-19 response

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3 October 2021 – “I have asked to be among the frontline health workers fighting against COVID19. I want to serve humanity and this is the least I can do”.

Monther Haider, 30, recalled this stressful conversation with his mother.

“She began crying and told me I couldn’t do this, because I wouldn’t be safe, and I could be at risk of contracting COVID-19,” Monther said, then paused to add: “I respected her wishes.”

Monther patiently waited for his mother’s permission, and nearly one more year passed. Finally, the day came when he could reassure her that he would have personal protective equipment (PPE) – minimizing his exposure to COVID-19 and other deadly infectious diseases that are widespread in Yemen. With his mother’s blessing, Monther began working in the Al Sadakah isolation unit of Aden’s Al Sadakah hospital in April 2021.

“I have been working here for almost 5 months,” he said. “In not even the past 2 months we have received nearly 30 COVID-19 cases transferred from Al Jumhooria hospital. Some patients were very critical and barely recovered.”

“As soon as a patient is admitted we provide all necessary health care, including medicines, oxygen, antibiotics and IV (intravenous) fluids,” Monther explained. “If their condition worsens they are rushed to the isolation unit so they can be stabilized if possible, and then discharged to the inpatient department for monitoring. Once they can be taken off oxygen and their breathing returns to normal, they can usually be discharged and return home.”

Yemen’s conflict, now entering its seventh year, has led to human displacement, overcrowding, inadequate safe water and sanitation, and increased exposure to infectious and deadly diseases, including COVID 19. Frontline health workers like Monther have shouldered a disproportionate burden of the country’s fight against these diseases.

As of 31 August 2021, 8265 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3252 associated deaths have been reported. However, this number does not reflect the reality of actual COVID-19 cases that have been under-reported and are likely much higher.

“It is emotionally tough to see patients who are fighting to live, especially when they are admitted in very critical condition, and must have oxygen just to breathe. This makes us feel extremely anxious, and we try our best to keep them alive, until their condition is stabilized.”

WHO is partnering with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre to support infectious disease prevention measures in Yemen, including COVID-19 case management and provision of medicines and other essential medical supplies to 14 isolation units across the country. Distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) are also key to protecting the lives of health workers.

“I’m very happy that I have the PPE,” Monther said, recalling the promise he made to his mother. “It makes me feel much safer, so I can focus on the safety of my patients, and I can also assure my family that I am protected.”

“I feel so proud to be on the frontline of this battle with COVID19, especially when I see that the patients are recovering and becoming safely healthy, and this feeling gives us the motivation to continue working and saving the lives pf patients”.