Chaos, pollution, and hundreds of deaths
Abdul Rahman Ahmed entered the border governorate of Saada on March 26 after returning from Saudi Arabia, where he had worked in a restaurant for four years to support his family of nine. He stopped working on March 15, after the country announced a partial curfew to combat COVID-19, and restaurants were restricted to takeout orders only.
On his way home to the governorate of Rima, Abdul Rahman was taken by surprise when he was transferred to a quarantine station at a military post, located in a school building in Bani Ayyash. The place was crowded and had no beds, so he was forced to sleep on the floor without a blanket.
By the third day, 100 people were quarantined in the building. The guards informed them that they would be transferred to quarantine in the Ehma al-Talh school in the Sahar District.
Abdul Rahman found the new quarantine station at the school even more crowded, and the conditions worse. Over 20 people sat in one room, and more than 150 people used one bathroom, with water provided from open ponds surrounding the school.
“They gave us polluted water, showing impurities from the water well,” Abdul Rahman recalls, adding that dust, insects and plastic waste were scattered on the windowsills, in the corridors and in the courtyard of the building.
Most of the response and health team members in the quarantine station mixed with the occupants without wearing masks or gloves, or using sterilizers. On top of that, the quarantined were mixed with new arrivals without isolation or sterilization procedures. They were also allowed to go out to the neighbouring markets for three hours a day, starting from 1 p.m., to buy food and water, since this was not available in the quarantine station.