Yemen & Corona: War x War
By Majed Murshed, and Dr. Nawal Alhazwarah
Voiceover: On April 8th, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was announced in Hadramout, eastern Yemen.
Sky News shot and the announcement of one confirmed case:
It is the first confirmed case of infection with the newCovid-19 in the Republic of Yemen.
Al-Hadath shot and the announcement of one confirmed case:
The first confirmed Covid-19 case was detected in Hadramout governorate, to the south of the country.
Though there is a lack of resources, it is a must to be prepared. Kuwait Hospital is one of the health isolation centers for Covid-19 cases, and about 16 beds have been equipped in the Intensive Care Unit for critical cases.
Interview with Dr. Rania:
We started the procedures and to take actions nearly since March, the first of which was the closure of the hospital. Then, we made the staff ready as well as inpatient departments. To accommodate Covid-19 cases, we first began by providing the logistics such as equipping the staff with the PPE in order to deal with cases and to protect the staff from the spread of infection. We had concerns in case staff members got infected; how could we compensate any loss in the staff to cope with the pandemic? In the beginning, there was a call for volunteers, but unfortunately when the pandemic started, no volunteers showed up.
Yemen has been suffering for more than 5 years from war, conflict, siege, poverty, famine, epidemics, and a humanitarian disaster that is the worst in the world, according to United Nations reports. The health system in Yemen has almost collapsed due to the war and the increase of infected cases as a result of the spread of the disease in the governorates of the Republic. The real battle is a battle of awareness.
Interview with Al-Hadhery:
The Covid-19 epidemic, which was considered the biggest challenge for the Ministry of Health, not only during this period, but in the history of the Ministry in general, taking into consideration the major pandemic the world has witnessed, which has slammed major global economies as we all know. There are very strong countries in terms of their health infrastructure such as the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. that have been deteriorated and collapsed before the Covid-19 pandemic. So, it was imperative for us due the war, blockade and scarcity of resources as well as the spread of other epidemics already existed such as cholera, malaria, dengue fever and other epidemics, to do our job to the fullest. This is our responsibility.
It is necessary that people become aware of prevention and precaution methods and commitment to the quarantine announced by the government. The national media bears the responsibility to educate people and provide them with the necessary knowledge to confront this disease.
Activities focused primarily on awareness-raising. We worked on this aspect to a very large extent because awareness is the first protection and the first line in the issue of primary health care. If a person lacks awareness, then they will be a victim of diseases, no matter how mild it is. We also worked on providing quarantine and isolation places, equipped them and provided appropriate medicines.
Journalists are not allowed to say much, nor to report the numbers of infected cases and deaths under the pretext of not creating fear and panic among people. Therefore, the radio stations focused on awareness programs and efforts to raise awareness of the disease, methods of prevention, and advocacy of social distancing.
Radio spots of Yemen Radio Station:
Covid-19! Covid-19! Covid-19!A viral disease whose characteristics are still mysterious to doctors, and it is not possible for a patient, of course, to know that they have this disease except after a specific laboratory examination of the secretions of the nose and throat.
The veil of secrecy covered Covid-19 in the media in both Sana'a and Aden. Both governments exchanged allegations of negligence during the crisis. It is clear that Covid-19 has been included in that conflict.
Interview with Ahmed Al-Junaid:
The media, in my opinion, had a negative role in spreading panic, fear and anxiety among people. Many of the health workers themselves, at the beginning of the pandemic, were reluctant to perform their duties due to the rumors that spread. The media caused intimidation and "terrorism", as it were, of the pandemic, by publishing news of large numbers of doctors who were infected with the virus, and a number of doctors and nurses have died in that country. This made people feel more anxious than safe.
With the expansion of infection and the increasing number of deaths, fear and a state of panic made many people search for sufficient information about Covid-19 in the cyberspace and social media, which was a place for many activists to take up and circulate information, much of which was not real. Abdul-Aziz Al-Shuaie runs a healthcare website that he had established with a group of his colleagues
Interview with Al-Shuaie:
Though people in Yemeni watch foreign media and seethe large numbers of widespread deaths and infections, the local media did not play its role properly due to the reservations of the authorities in Sana'a about the real numbers of infected cases because of the lack of laboratory solutions as a result of the war and the siege imposed on Sanaa Airport and the entry points to the Republic. This prompted the spread rumors on social media. We on the health care website, a group of young people and I, have played a great role in confronting these rumors and obtaining information from official sources, isolation centers and quarantine centers at the entry points of the country.
Many rumors spread during the Covid-19 pandemic about unverified numbers of infected cases, medicines for treatment and others for prevention as well as the deliberate killing of those infected by the so-called 'mercy injection'.
Interview with Dr. Rania:
Almost in Ramadan when we reached the climax, we were surprised by the rumors of mercy injections given to infected cases on arrival. We were surprised and it was very frustrating, as we were under psychological pressure due to the large number of cases we received. In addition, cases were critical due to negligence and people's lack of awareness of the existence of the pandemic. Despite all these problems and complications, we faced another problem which is the mercy injection.
There was information chaos in the media coverage of journalists and media professionals in the Yemeni media, especially at the beginning of the spread of the epidemic. No attention was paid to occupational safety measures and there was a lack of knowledge in this regard. In addition, the rumors were many and many journalists were competing to publish them. This was the reason for a positive initiative by the Center for Economic Studies and Media to prepare a guide for good press coverage of Covid-19. There was also an attempt to conduct distance training for a number of media professionals.
Interview with Al-Hadhery:
Within the framework of the national media, whether it was television, radio or electronic sites, it was our first means. They reacted well and showed cooperation and motivation though we did not give them anything in return. They did that based on religious and national motive, which they did in the best manner.
People have become more aware of the symptoms seriousness and methods of prevention and precaution of Covid-19,This was confirmed by a study conducted during the preparation of this report. Now, Yemenis now possess a fair amount of knowledge about this issue.
Interview with Al-Junaid:
We did not learn about the conditions outside the hospital, as we were not able to leave the hospital and have contact with people. However, what we learnt about through the media is the commitment of institutions, restaurants and big and public stores to precautions, yet markets remained crowded until advanced stages of the disease.
Interview with Rania:
We felt an awareness of knowledge amongst some educated and medical cadres, but the general public, despite their reading of leaflets and warnings about the pandemic, did not believe the existence of the disease. Many people did not make sure of the existence of the pandemic until after deaths occurred in the area they live in.
The study also showed that communication with family and doctors was the most important source that Yemenis depend onto obtain information. Then comes the role of television, and the social media, the most prominent of which was WhatsApp, but communication with experts and doctors was the most trusted source for people.
Bashir continues to strive after his daily livelihood, but some people work without paying the required attention to safety measures. People continue to crowd in front of Hamoud and his popular commodity that even the Covid-19 could not stop it.
The Yemeni street has remained on its constant daily movement. Due to conditions of poverty, hunger and war: in this country many give no importance to a severe epidemic virus such as Covid-19.