As Yemen confirmed its first case of COVID-19, many of International NGOs warn of Catastrophic Outbreak in the country and demand the international committee to help saving people lives in the poorest country in the world.
Mercy Corps calls on warring parties to agree to and extend the two-week ceasefire and lift the bureaucratic impediments on lifesaving aid.
Mercy Corps Country Director Steve Claborne says: “Five years of conflict have obliterated Yemen’s infrastructure, and severely hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid. A widespread outbreak of COVID-19 will be catastrophic for Yemenis already living through the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
“Only half of Yemen’s health centers are operational, and are already struggling to cope with overwhelming numbers of patients suffering from malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever and injuries of war. As many as 24 million Yemenis rely on humanitarian aid.
“It is critical that all warring parties agree to and extend the two-week ceasefire and lift restrictions on humanitarian access for millions of people in urgent need. Humanitarian organizations must be allowed to move supplies into and throughout the country in order to save lives.
“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.”
CARE welcomes the declaration of ceasefire which comes more than two weeks after the UN Secretary General’s global call. A possible ceasefire is now needed more than ever to protect all Yemenis and give them a chance to rebuild their lives.
“This is the first step into the right direction. Humanitarian actors, including CARE, have consistently emphasized the need for a total cessation of conflict in Yemen and a comprehensive and inclusive peace process”, says Aaron Brent, CARE’s country director in Yemen. “The possible ceasefire comes at the critical time of the global COVID-19 pandemic which threatens to further worsen the situation in Yemen, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. We call upon all parties to the conflict to take the opportunity to find a long lasting solution to the conflict and begin the process to bring relief and development to the Yemeni people who have suffered for so long.”
More than five years of conflict have led to 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Yemen’s health care system has been ravaged and existing facilities are already overstretched with a significant rise in cholera cases – more than 100,000 new suspected cases since the beginning of this year.
To prevent a possible spread of COVID-19 in Yemen, CARE continues to reach out to millions of people with food distributions, clean and safe drinking water as well as sanitation and hygiene interventions. CARE has also started information campaigns on COVID-19 and awareness raising activities on how people can protect themselves.
“Despite precautions issued by Yemeni national authorities and WHO [the World Health Organization] to minimize the risk of the virus transmission, there is a high risk that COVID-19 spreads rapidly throughout Yemen,” according to a risk report published this week by ACAPS, a nonprofit project of the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children that publishes forecasts on the world’s most vulnerable communities.
The health warning follows a recent spike in fighting between a pro-government Saudi-led coalition and the country’s Houthi rebels—though Saudi Arabia announced this week that it would unilaterally observe a U.N. call for a cease-fire.
Still, the report provides a troubling snapshot of the all but insurmountable challenges poor, conflict-plagued countries face as the coronavirus spreads from the world’s global capitals to some of the most hard-bitten places on Earth.
“Within a month of the first case being registered in Yemen, many deaths are likely to have been recorded and increasingly stringent movement restrictions begin to be instigated,” the report predicts. “Nevertheless, the number of infections and deaths will continue to rise sharply. Death rates are higher than the global average due to the underlying poor health conditions, lowered immunity among a malnourished population, and limited medical resilience in the general population.”
“While we knew this was coming, still, the spread of COVID-19 to Yemen is a nightmare scenario,” Tamuna Sabedze, the Yemen country director for the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement Friday. “Millions of Yemenis live in cramped and unsanitary areas, vulnerable to contracting the virus. It is vital that the warring parties honor the ceasefire they’ve committed to and extend it.”