UN: Yemen faces ‘staggering’ 16 million coronavirus cases

Aid chief in the country Lise Grande said the ‘most likely scenario’ sees 55 per cent of Yemen’s war-ravaged population becoming infected with Covid-19

The United Nations is anticipating 16 million Covid-19 cases in Yemen on top of what is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Lise Grande, the global body’s aid chief in the country, said on Monday.

Speaking to The National and others in an online briefing, Ms Grande outlined the “most likely scenario” in which 55 per cent of Yemen’s war-ravaged population became infected in a pandemic that has stricken millions and shuttered economies around the world.

Yemen-based aid teams were scrambling to prepare the 300,000 hospital beds needed to meet the expected caseload, including 200,000 intensive care unit spaces, in a nation where many clinics have been destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, said Ms Grande.

 

“If you’re faced with that kind of staggering problem, one of your reactions is to put up your hands and say there’s nothing you can do,” Ms Grande said in a briefing hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank.

 

Yemen recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus in the eastern province of Hadramawt this month and was unclear whether curfews there will slow the spread of an outbreak that has infected more than three million people and killed at least 211,000 around the world.

 

Ms Grande said she was working on the assumption that lockdowns will not prevent the pathogen’s spread, given Yemen’s malnourished population and a crumbling healthcare system after years of war, instability and under-investment.

 

According to the UN, about 80 per cent of Yemenis rely on handouts. The immune systems of millions of them have been compromised by widespread hunger and malnutrition, as well as diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and dengue fever.

The United Nations is anticipating 16 million Covid-19 cases in Yemen on top of what is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Lise Grande, the global body’s aid chief in the country, said on Monday.

 

Speaking to The National and others in an online briefing, Ms Grande outlined the “most likely scenario” in which 55 per cent of Yemen’s war-ravaged population became infected in a pandemic that has stricken millions and shuttered economies around the world.

 

Yemen-based aid teams were scrambling to prepare the 300,000 hospital beds needed to meet the expected caseload, including 200,000 intensive care unit spaces, in a nation where many clinics have been destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, said Ms Grande.

 

“If you’re faced with that kind of staggering problem, one of your reactions is to put up your hands and say there’s nothing you can do,” Ms Grande said in a briefing hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank.

 

Yemen recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus in the eastern province of Hadramawt this month and was unclear whether curfews there will slow the spread of an outbreak that has infected more than three million people and killed at least 211,000 around the world.

 

Ms Grande said she was working on the assumption that lockdowns will not prevent the pathogen’s spread, given Yemen’s malnourished population and a crumbling healthcare system after years of war, instability and under-investment.

 

According to the UN, about 80 per cent of Yemenis rely on handouts. The immune systems of millions of them have been compromised by widespread hunger and malnutrition, as well as diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and dengue fever.

Speaking in the same session, J Stephen Morrison, a CSIS health expert, said that Yemen was “on the edge of a resource cliff” as a result of sea and air blockades and the lack of testing kits, ventilators and protective gear.

 

According to Save the Children, a charity that operates in Yemen, only half of Yemen’s hospitals are fully operational and the Arab world’s poorest nation only has some 700 ICU beds, including 60 for children, and about 500 ventilators.