AS WAR-torn Yemen braces itself for a second wave of Covid-19, one doctor recalls how she battled the pandemic alone after her colleagues fled the hospital, and the dramatic fake news that plagued the assistance when it eventually arrived.
Twenty-nine-year-old Zoha Aidaroos al-Zubaidi recalls the moment she stood behind a hastily painted red quarantine line down the middle of her hospital. A patient on the other side of the line was all alone, struggling to breathe.
For weeks, the line had not been needed. It was only a quiet warning that the pandemic ravaging other nations would eventually reach Yemen. But now al-Amal hospital, in the southern city of Aden, had its first suspected coronavirus patient.
Zoha hovered at the line, terrified. The rest of the medical staff stood there too. When she asked them what was happening, they said they had given the man oxygen but wanted no further contact with him. The next thing she knew, her colleagues had left the hospital completely.
“There was no response. I kept calling and shouting out… There was nobody left.” Management say, however, that they did not leave the hospital.
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Nawal al-Maghafi was the first reporter to enter Yemen since the outbreak of Covid-19. Watch her documentary Yemen: Coronavirus in a Warzone is on BBC 2 at 23:30 GMT on Monday 18 July and also available on iPlayer
For the next two weeks, Zoha and a single nurse were alone with dozens of patients.
She didn’t blame her colleagues. Al-Amal, though designated by the government as the city’s official Covid hospital, was completely ill-equipped for that role. It did not have enough PPE, barely any oxygen canisters, and only seven ventilators. During those first two weeks, she was unable to save a single patient.
Zoha had been dreading the moment the pandemic would hit Yemen. As she and her mother had watched the news the previous month, glued to the TV as coronavirus tore through the world’s most developed nations, her thoughts had immediately turned to home.
Six years of war in Yemen have had a devastating impact. More than half of the country’s health facilities have been destroyed and two thirds of the population are reliant on aid to survive. BBC