[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by a Yemeni believer from a Muslim background living in the diaspora under quarantine.]
Yemen (MNN) — Since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Yemen on April 10th, the United Nations (UN) and relief organizations have warned that the spread of the virus will have a catastrophic impact if the cases are not identified, treated, isolated, and properly tracked.
However, following through with these measures seems impossible when conflict continues to rage in hotspots around the country and the health system has “in effect” collapsed, according to the UN. Citizens are left to fear the terrifying scenarios now projected by international agencies, including the infection of half the population and the deaths of more than 40,000 Yemenis, due to the unmitigated spread of COVID-19.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and frustration dominating my neighborhood and social network,” said Shoki*, a believer who lives in the north of the country. “Many of the people around me are fearful and there is talk about the tragic way a person with this virus can die and the suffering of the victim and his family. In contrast to that, I’ve noticed how believers are a blessing, as they talk about how to deal with this pandemic in a spirit of hope and a spirit of encouragement, prayer, and following the measures of prevention and safe health practices.”
Three weeks after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Hadramout, additional cases were confirmed in Aden, the temporary capital of Yemen’s Saudi and Emirati-backed authorities. By May 27th, the Supreme National Emergency Committee announced that 256 total cases had been recorded along with 53 deaths in areas under the control of these authorities based in the south. Just 10 cases were confirmed to have recovered.
Alongside the confirmed numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, city officials in Aden reported that more than 500 people died between May 8th and May 16th alone, many with breathing difficulties. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), government burial statistics reveal a current death rate of 80 people per day in the city, up from a pre-outbreak average of 10. One gravedigger told The Associated Press he’d never seen such a constant flow of dead — in a city that has seen multiple bouts of bloody street battles during more than five years of war.
Experts explain that the rise in the overall number of deaths suggests that the COVID-19 figures announced so far may not reflect the reality on the ground. This is due to extremely limited capacity to test for the virus combined with the parallel spread of other fever-producing illnesses including malaria, cholera and dengue fever. With very limited resources, many Yemenis only seek medical care in the latest stages of an illness, which makes treatment more difficult. Others do not seek treatment at all and die in their homes and are buried without ever being examined for the cause of death. Besides an inability to afford medical care, Yemenis with symptoms may also choose not to seek testing or treatment out of fear of the stigma that comes with having COVID-19.
“We’ve seen videos of health authorities in the northern areas dealing with the suspected cases that are reported to them, and they are arresting the people as if they are criminals,” said Ali*, a believer living in the north. “So, of course, many people are not reporting suspected cases out of fear of these security measures. We also heard stories of people traveling from the southern governorates to the north and how they were quarantined along the way. The quarantine conditions were terrible; there weren’t enough bathrooms and not enough space for the number of people.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in the northern Houthi-controlled areas where Ali lives cannot be verified amid alleged deliberate misinformation and possible misguidance by Houthi authorities. Additionally, families are not reporting those that are sick with acute breathing problems, or who have died with these symptoms at home. Videos are circulating on social media showing dead loved ones being carried away and buried in secret.
In this environment, believers in the hardest-hit areas of Yemen told me they are overcoming their sadness and fears by turning them into a driving force to pray and to encourage one another to follow reliable advice about treatment and prevention.
“We pray for each other that the Lord Jesus will deliver us from this pandemic,” a believing woman said. “It has brought us closer to Him and brought us closer to each other as His children in Yemen. We’re trying to spend more time with our children, teaching them and praying together and praying for the salvation of our people.”
Following COVID-19 prevention guidelines is a matter of life or death for Yemenis, since a visit to any hospital or health center quickly reveals a dire shortage or total lack of the drugs, medical equipment, ventilators, and even beds needed to treat the now surging number of COVID-19 cases.
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SOURCE: Mission Network News
CALL TO ACTION
- Pray believers would live a life “worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:10-11 NKJV)
- Pray that “the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified,” (2 Thess 3:1 NKJV), so that instead of disease spreading rapidly, there would be a rapid, infectious spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over Yemen.