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Coronavirus in Yemen: Almost 100 healthcare workers have died from Covid-19

At 27 percent, Yemen has worst mortality rate in world, according to US-based charity
Yemen suffers from a depleted supply of medical professionals
Yemen suffers from depleted supply of medical professionals (AFP/File photo)

Almost 100 doctors and medical workers have died in Yemen after contracting coronavirus, one of the world's highest health-care staff death tolls, according to a new report analysing the outbreak in the war-ravaged country.

US-based charity MedGlobal, alongside Project Hope and the University of Illinois, reported on Thursday that there were at least 1,610 confirmed cases and 446 deaths from Covid-19 in the southern Arabian peninsula country.

According to the Chicago-based charity, the mortality rate stood at 27 percent, five times greater than the global average.

"In this uniquely dire context, when one medical professional dies, the effect is exponential and extends to their entire community," the charity said in the report.

The deaths of the 97 medical workers - which include epidemiologists, medical directors, and midwives - has dealt a devastating blow to a country plagued by five years of war and conflict.

With only half of the country's medical facilities functioning, and fewer than 10 medics for every 10,000 people, Yemen was more than 50 percent below the basic health coverage benchmark outlined by the World Health Organisation, MedGlobal said.

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"Covid-19 shook countries with advanced health systems and services. What will it do to a country like Yemen that has lived in the shadow of war for five years?," said Nahla Arishi, a Yemeni pediatrician in Aden.

According to the report, about 18 percent of the country's 33 districts have no doctors, with several people having died as they waited in hospital lobbies.

Earlier this month, a Yemeni doctor chronicled his experience in The New Humanitarian, detailing how the virus had effected the southern port city of Aden.

"I never expected to see what is happening right now, here in Aden. The situation is insane. People are falling down, one by one, like dominoes," he said.

"People are still afraid, and they hate to hear the name of the virus. Even some medical staff won’t say it in public, like it's cursed."

Yemen has been mired in conflict since 2014 when the Houthis, a rebel group traditionally based in the north, took over the capital, Sanaa, and large parts of the country.

The conflict deepened in March 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in a bid to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The ongoing war has devastated the country, with about 80 percent of the population - 24 million people - requiring some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, according to UNOCHA.