A car drives up to the low, white building that houses the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) COVID-19 treatment center in Aden, Yemen. Inside a man around 60 years old coughs and struggles to breathe. He manages to heave himself into a wheelchair and the MSF team rushes him to the intensive care unit (ICU) for oxygen. Four hours later he is dead.
Such is the speed and savagery of COVID-19 in Aden, a city in the grip of a catastrophic outbreak of the novel coronavirus. “We have had a lot of people like that—a lot of people that die quickly,” says Thierry Durand, the MSF project coordinator who managed setup of the treatment center. “They arrive already in a serious condition, and it is too late. People are struggling to understand how they die so quickly.”
High death rates and dwindling supplies
From April 30 to May 24 the center admitted 228 patients, 99 of whom died. “We only see serious cases,” says Durand. “For us, the health care workers, it makes us feel helpless. We can’t do much but give them oxygen. There are days we have had 13 deaths in the same day.”