Yemen Faces “Two Disasters At Once”: Coronavirus And Aid Cuts

Local Editor

Yemen reported its first coronavirus case on Friday in a country where war has already shattered the health system and spread hunger and disease.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population announced the first laboratory confirmed case of the virus in Hadhramout's Al-Shihr district.

As a precautionary measure, schools and universities had already been closed last month, while a campaign of awareness over the virus was launched and movements between areas were halted.

The appearance of the virus in the war-torn country is the latest blow to the country following an announcement from the World Food Program [WFP] on Thursday that later this week it will halve the aid it gives to people in parts of Yemen controlled by the Yemeni Ansarullah.

Out of 30.5 million Yemenis, 24 million are in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance.

One of the biggest fears regarding the coronavirus threat is how the country's already weakened population, may of them solely reliant on WFP aid, will respond.

“After five years of war, people across the country have some of the lowest levels of immunity and highest levels of acute vulnerability in the world,” said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

“What’s facing Yemen is frightening. More people who become infected are likely to become severely ill than anywhere else.

“Only half of all health facilities are currently functioning. Fighting the virus is going to be hard, but it’s our highest priority.”

However, a small glimmer of hope for the country came last week when a nationwide ceasefire was declared by the Saudi-led coalition, which said it was acting as a result of the pandemic.

The Saudi-coalition announced it would halt military operations for two weeks, but the Ansarullah have yet to agree to the truce.

Among the most vulnerable people to the virus at this time are the displaced families who have fled their homes over the years of fighting, with many of them now living in makeshift camps which struggle to provide basic services.

In a press release on 10 April, the day the first case of the coronavirus was announced, Mercy Corps, an international organization operating in Yemen, urged donors to act to help the situation

“We’re calling on donors to provide the direct, flexible and long-term support that humanitarian organizations need to help communities protect themselves against Covid-19, improve the health system’s ability to respond, and protect against further economic collapse,” the US-based organization said.

Fadhl Mohammed, a professor of sociology in Taiz, said the coming period will be very difficult so the authorities and organizations need to work together to help Yemenis.

“The economic situation is very difficult and many people can’t buy food, water or even soap, so the suffering in Yemen will be the worst," he told MEE.

“In Europe, Covid-19 is killing thousands and they have good health systems, and people can buy food and stay at home, but in Yemen most Yemenis can’t stock-up food for a week.”

Mohammed called on authorities to take the hunger of the poorest people into consideration and try to implement a proper solution now.

"If authorities do not prepare the best solution for hungry people, there will be a catastrophe,” he said.

Source: MEE, Edited by Website Team