'Fifty dead' in one Yemen hospital

Sebastian Usher

BBC Arab Affairs Editor

People stand in line to receive vouchers at a food distribution center supported by the World Food Program in Sanaa, Yemen June 3, 2020.
These people, wearing face coverings, were waiting at a food distribution centre in Sanaa

The Houthi rebels who control Yemen's capital Sanaa have so far only acknowledged a handful of cases of coronavirus.

However, a quarter of the 200 patients being treated in the coronavirus unit set up by in a hospital in Sanaa have died, sources say.

The Houthis have downplayed the outbreak so far, but the limited facilities to treat the virus in Sanaa - one hospital for testing and one for treatment - have been overwhelmed.

The Houthis have now asked private hospitals to make beds available for coronavirus patients.

A doctor in Sanaa - just recovering from the virus himself - has said that he's already lost a number of colleagues to the disease.

Unconfirmed reports suggest a heavy toll on health workers, who are having to use one set of personal protective equipment for an entire shift.

The true extent of the outbreak is unknown - with many Yemenis fearful of going to hospital at all.

In the southern city of Aden - controlled by the internationally recognised government - recent weeks have seen a surge of cases, all appearing to confirm the warnings of catastrophe that aid agencies had been issuing since January.

Despite this, a UN call for emergency funding on Tuesday fell far short of its target.

UN: Yemen healthcare 'has in effect collapsed'

A Yemeni worker in protective kit sprays disinfectant in Sanaa
Getty Images

The United Nations says aid workers report that war-torn Yemen's healthcare system has "in effect collapsed" and coronavirus is spreading through the country.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), described the situation as "extremely alarming" at a Geneva briefing.

He said aid agencies had talked of people being turned away from treatment centres partly because staff lacked personal protective equipment.

The Yemeni authorities have confirmed scores of coronavirus cases, and 30 deaths. But the UN says the real figures are almost certainly much higher.

Years of fighting have made millions of Yemenis homeless; many are malnourished; and most of the population depends on aid.

Yemen bracing for coronavirus outbreak
The BBC gained access to hospitals in Sanaa that are bracing for an outbreak with very few resources.