COVID-19 is in Yemen, where people are not only in the world’s worst crisis but also face having life-saving aid being cut back.
1. The humanitarian situation in Yemen, in its sixth year of conflict, is still the worst in the world.
Some 24 million people, which is 80 per cent of the country’s entire population, require some form of assistance or protection.
2. COVID-19 is now in Yemen, and we are running out of time.
As of 27 May, 260 COVID-19 cases have been recorded, including 54 deaths, and 10 recoveries. However, there are thousands of people in the country suffering from non-COVID-19 diseases, who are at risk of being deprioritized due to attention being diverted to the coronavirus.
The actual incidence of COVID-19 is almost certainly much higher. Tests remain in short supply. Aid agencies in Yemen are operating on the basis that community transmission is taking place across the country. Nearly 18 million people in Yemen do not have regular access to clean water, and the conflict has destroyed health-care facilities and left people with some of the lowest levels of immunity and highest levels of acute vulnerability in the world.
3. Major UN programmes in Yemen face reduction or closure, with a devastating impact on efforts to prepare for COVID-19.
Of the UN’s 41 major programmes in Yemen, 31 will start to close in the next few weeks if we do not secure additional funds. Up to 1 million displaced people will not be able to receive critical supplies – including hygiene items that help protect against diseases such as cholera and COVID-19. Nutrition programmes will also be cut, affecting 260,000 severely malnourished children and 2 million more children with moderate malnutrition. At least 80 per cent of health services provided through the response could stop at the end of April. This could mean disbanding local health teams that have been and would be essential in detecting COVID-19 and containing past disease outbreaks such as cholera.
4. Yemen’s currency could collapse as the global economy grapples with the impact of COVID-19.
Rapid, uncontrolled currency depreciation was a key factor in bringing Yemen to the brink of widespread famine 18 months ago. The price of oil, Yemen’s main source of revenue, has fallen, which will make it harder for the country to pay for salaries or for imports, which the country relies heavily on. Most Yemenis depend on remittances, which is estimated to bring in more than $3 billion a year. But economists predict that remittances could drop by as much as 70 per cent in the coming months as COVID-19 slows down economies.
5. Yemen’s health system is on the verge of collapse.
Nearly half of health facilities are non-functioning or partially functioning. Equipment and medical supplies are inadequate or obsolete, and health workers have gone without pay or received irregular pay for more than two years.
6. Malnutrition rates among women and children in Yemen remain among the highest in the world
More than 1 million women and 2 million children require treatment for acute malnutrition.
7. Civilians, mostly children, are bearing the brunt of the violence.
In the first quarter of this year, civilian casualties have risen every month, with more than 500 people killed or injured. One in every three civilian casualties has been a child. In Al Jawf – where hostilities escalated in mid-January – that rate is now one in two.
8. Humanitarian aid has been a lifeline for many Yemenis.
Every month, we help more than 13 million people across Yemen and provide food to nearly 12 million of those people. In 2019, humanitarian agencies supported 3,100 health facilities and conducted 17 million medical consultations. More than 11 million people were able to access clean water and sanitation and nearly 1 million acutely malnourished children were treated.
9. Only 70 cents per day can make a difference
On 2 June, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations will co-host a virtual pledging event to fund the humanitarian response in Yemen. UN agencies and partner organizations estimate they need about $2.41 billion to cover basic programmes, including the corona pandemic, until the end of this year. With that money we can help about 19 million people – that’s about 70 cents per person per day.