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One year of COVID-19 in Yemen: Fears and rumours

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic in Yemen, stigma, disinformation, fear of detention and lack of knowledge continues to deter people from seeking timely treatment for the disease.

"Some patients stay at home for a while after they get symptoms and may arrive in the late stages of the disease. Many are transferred here without oxygen, especially those coming from far places,” says Saddam, Intensive Care Unit Supervisor in the Al Jumhouri isolation centre.

“Patients come to us from the different governorates of Yemen, such as Hajjah, Al Mahwit and Hodeidah – between 3 and 6 hours by car from Sanaa." says Dr Sana who works in the COVID-19 treatment centre within Al Jumhouri hospital

Another issue is the spread of disinformation about isolation centres, as well as fear of stigma. People fear that they will receive lethal injections, or even be detained against their will if they visit a COVID-19 centre. Many patients and caretakers insist on leaving the hospital early, against medical advice, because they fear that the longer they stay, the higher the chances that they may be stigmatized by relatives and friends.

The compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures in Yemen is rather low. This could be linked to limited awareness-raising activities for the population, as it is done for other diseases such as Cholera.  MSF is addressing these challenges through health promoters working in the COVID-19 department, but unfortunately the team is limited to working within the facility only and therefore can’t reach the population fearing to come to the health centre in the first place. Ebtisam, who has been working as a health promoter in the isolation centre since its opening in April 2021, says: "Despite the difficulties regarding health education related to COVID-19 in Yemen, we are doing our best here in the centre to correct misconceptions about the disease and disseminate information to patients and their companions on how to protect themselves and when and where to receive treatment. We also provide support to patients and build confidence between patients and medical staff to reduce the fear they have, and this is clearly reflected when they leave the centre in good health."

 

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This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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