Al Radwan Cemetery has expanded rapidly in recent months, with new graves coming closer to the residential buildings bordering it. “You can see my excavator,” says Saleh. “Now I dug 20 graves.”
Local medical authorities say the death toll in Aden is rising this year, despite relative easing in a war that has hit the country in recent years.
In the first half of May, the city recorded 950 deaths – almost four times more than the 251 deaths across March, according to a Health Department report.
These 950 deaths in two weeks in May accounted for almost half of the number of victims the city suffered in 2015, when the country’s civil war was raging.
Then Aden was destroyed by heavy fighting, his roads were hit by missiles and his houses were full of bullets. Now the biggest killers in the city are silent.
“Yemen has faced wars and cannot cope with three pandemics, economic collapse and war and the corona,” said Dr. Ishraq Al-Subei, CNN’s health chief.
The official death toll in Covid-19 in southern Yemen is only 127. Health workers say they do not know the actual number due to low test capacity. But the huge increase in deaths in Aden is considered a warning of the worst to come, as the health sector is flooded and more people are dying from treatment.
In search of a hospital bed
Hmeid Mohammed, 38, had a racing trip that began with a mild fever at home.
His family could not find a hospital to take him when his fever began to rise rapidly in early May. He was in a coma when he was admitted to the only hospital in Aden that was scheduled to treat Covid-19 at the time.
“They brought him back to life,” recalls his brother-in-law, Anwar Motref.
He was diagnosed with meningitis, another common disease in Yemen. As soon as he showed signs of improvement, doctors advised him to leave the hospital to avoid being infected with Covid-19.
About a week later, his health deteriorated. Again, the family went to different hospitals in an attempt to admit him, but with little success. He was eventually found in a bed in an emergency room shared with six other people. The fluid filled his lungs and his kidneys failed.
The family had the money for medical care, but Aden’s hospitals were either closed or full. A hospital admission hunt that could have surgery and dialysis in time to save him failed.
Mohammed died in late May, robbing his three children and the widow of the family’s only winner.
“Who’s to blame for all this? We don’t have a government or a state or anyone to help us in this country,” Motref said at the family home on the rocky hills around Aden.
“Who should we complain to? We are tired of this life. We wake up every morning to listen to 10-15 people who died, “he added.
Disappearing help and collapsing health sector
Weapons in Aden have become quieter in recent months, but the Yemeni war is not over.
Five years of conflict have praised the nation. Today more than half of its population relies on help to survive.
“We are one billion less than our minimum target,” Lise Grande, head of UN humanitarian operations in Yemen, told CNN. “So in the Covid era, that means we’re going to close about half of the hospitals we’re currently supporting in the country – and that’s going to happen in the coming weeks.
“One week before the first Covid-19 case in Yemen was confirmed, we ran out of money and we had to stop the benefits for 10,000 first-line health workers across the country. In the middle of Covid, it’s catastrophic,” he added.
There are only 60 hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19 in Aden, which has a population of about 800,000. These are located in two hospitals operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The city has 18 respirators, all in constant use, according to the MSF.
Doctors and staff are helping patients seek out mainly hospital care in the late stages of the disease, when it is too late to save them. And in most cases, there is no ability to deal with them.
“Most cases are ruled out because there are no respirators available,” Dr. Farouk Abduallah Nagy, head of isolation at Gomhuria Hospital, told CNN.
“The health sector was already weak before the outbreak. And it’s getting worse. The health sector is collapsing,” Caroline Seguin, a communications officer at Aden, told Aden.
More than 112,000 people have been killed in airstrikes, bombings and bombings, according to the Armed Forces Conflict and Events Project (ACLED).
Hundreds of thousands of people have been relocated to camps as refugees from the war. There they face the risks of endemic disease, malnutrition and overpopulation – all the ideal conditions for the spread of a disease like Covid-19.
Mokhtar Ahmed, originally from the port of Hodeidah in the north, came to a camp on the outskirts of Aden three years ago.
“Cholera and war are one thing and the crown is another,” he told CNN, accompanied by his two children.
“With the war, we moved from one place to another and settled … But with the crown, wherever you go, it will find you.”
Ahmed Baider contributed to this report from Sanaa. Mahmoud Nasser and Mohammed Khaled contributed to this Aden report.