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WHO to improve coronavirus testing capabilities in war-torn Yemen

The spread of coronavirus in war-torn Yemen could be especially catastrophic [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 April, 2020

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Yemen's WHO hopes to receive tens of thousands of coronavirus testing kits while working to prepare dozens of dedicated Covid-19 hospitals as it braces for a virus outbreak.
The World Health Organization's representative in Yemen said on Friday that teams are working to bolster the country's battered health infrastructure ahead of an expected spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

Altaf Musani said in a video statement that the country currently has 6,700 test kits available and hopes to have 30,000 soon.

He said that there are seven hospitals dedicated to treating coronavirus patients, with plans for there to eventually be 37 facilities exclusively for the treatment of Covid-19

"Within days, if not weeks, we are aiming to have all 37 Covid-dedicated facilities ready to receive patients," said Musani.

Read also: Yemen in Focus: PM appeals for assistance after 'disastrous' Aden flooding

Yemen announced its first case of the new coronavirus more than two weeks ago, a 73 year-old-man in a port city in the southern province of Hadramout.

The spread of the virus in Yemen could be especially catastrophic, as five years of bombing campaigns and on-the-ground fighting have destroyed or closed more than half its health facilities.

Poverty, water shortages and a lack of adequate sanitation also heighten the risk for a disastrous outbreak of the disease.

The country was also hit by deadly flash flooding over recent weeks, further impeding coronavirus prevention measures and preparations.

Yemen's recent cholera epidemic has been among the worst in modern history.

Over 24 million people in the country of 28.5 million require humanitarian assistance, many of them on the brink of starvation.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels declared a ceasefire earlier this month on humanitarian grounds, to prevent the spread of the pandemic, but the fighting has continued in several areas.

On Saturday night, separatists in Yemen's south declared self-rule, ending a fragile peace deal with the government and further complicating the separate conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis in the north.

The civil war has killed over 100,000 people and largely settled into a bloody stalemate.

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