The Radwan cemetery has expanded rapidly during the past few months, as new cemeteries crawl near adjacent apartment buildings. “You can see my drilling machine,” says Saleh. “Now only 20 graves have been dug.”
Local medical authorities say death rates in Aden are rising this year, despite a relative lull in a war that devastated the place in previous years.
In the first half of May, the city recorded 950 deaths – nearly four times the number of deaths from 251 in the whole of March, according to the Ministry of Health report.
These 950 deaths in two weeks in May represented nearly half of the city’s entire casualties in 2015, when the country’s civil war was raging.
At that time, Aden destroyed the heavy fighting, its streets were exploded with missiles and its houses were riddled with bullets. Now the city’s biggest killers are silent.
Dr. said. Ishraq, the boy responsible for responding to the disease, told CNN, “Yemen has faced wars and cannot deal with three epidemics, economic collapse, war and Coronavirus.”
The official death toll of Coved 19 in southern Yemen is only 127, and health workers say they do not know the actual number, due to poor testing capacity. But the massive increase in deaths in Aden is seen as a warning of the worst in the future, as the health sector becomes drowned and more people die from treatable diseases.
In search of the hospital bed
Hamid Muhammad, 38, was a painful journey that started with a slight fever at home.
His family could not find a hospital to take him when the fever began to rise rapidly in early May. He was in a coma when he entered the only hospital in Aden intended for the treatment of Covid 19 at the time.
His wife’s brother Anwar Mutref remembers, “brought him back to life.”
He was diagnosed with meningitis, another common disease in Yemen. Once signs of improvement appeared, doctors advised him to leave hospital to avoid Covid-19 infection.
About a week later, his health deteriorated. Once again, the family went to different hospitals to try to admit him, but with little success. In the end, they found him a bed in the emergency room, which he shared with six other people. The fluid filled his lungs and his kidneys collapsed.
The family had the funds needed for medical treatment, but Aden hospitals were either closed or full. The search for hospital admission that could perform surgery and dialysis in time to save him failed.
Muhammad died in late May, when he stole his three children and the widow of the only pregnant family.
“Who is responsible for all this? We don’t have a government, a state, or anyone to help us in this country,” he said at the family home in the rocky hills around Aden.
He added: “To whom should we complain? We are tired of this life. Every morning we wake up to hear 10-15 people have died.”
Aid disappeared and the health sector collapsed
Weapons in Aden have become quieter in recent months, but the Yemen war has not disappeared.
Five years of conflict have pleaded with the nation. Today, more than half of its population depends on aid for survival.
“We are less than a billion of our bottom line,” Liz Grande, the head of UN humanitarian operations in Yemen, told CNN. “So at the time of Covid, what this means is that we’ll see nearly half of the hospitals we currently support in the country are closed – and that will happen in the next few weeks.
“A week before the first Covid-19 case in Yemen was confirmed, money ran out, and we had to cut benefits for 10,000 front-line health workers across the country. In central Covid, it was devastating,” she added.
There are only 60 hospital beds designated for Covid-19 in Aden, which has a population of approximately 800,000. These are in two hospitals run by MSF. According to MSF, there are 18 ventilation fans in the city, all of which are in constant use.
Doctors and relief workers say that patients often seek hospital treatment in the later stages of the disease, when it is too late to save them. In most cases, there is no ability to treat it.
Dr. said. Farouk Abdullah Naji, head of the isolation department at Al-Gomhoria Hospital, told CNN: “Most cases are rejected because there are no ventilation devices available.”
“The health sector was already weak before the outbreak. It is getting worse and worse. The health sector is collapsing,” said Caroline Seguyen, MSF communications officer in Aden.
More than 112,000 people have been killed in air strikes, shelling and bombing, according to the ACLED Juvenile Data Project.
Hundreds of thousands of people were pushed into camps as refugees from the war. There they face the risks of endemic diseases, malnutrition and overcrowding – all ideal conditions for the spread of a disease like Covid-19.
Mukhtar Ahmed, originally from the coastal city of Hodeidah in the north, came to a camp on the outskirts of Aden three years ago.
“Cholera and war are one thing, and the aura is another,” he told CNN, which surrounds his two sons.
“With war, we moved from one place to another and settled … but with the aura, no matter where you go, you will find you.”
Ahmed Baydar contributed to this report from Sanaa. Mahmoud Nasser and Mohamed Khaled contributed to this report from Aden.