UN agencies and their global partners are seeking $2.41 billion to fight COVID-19 spread in Yemen while continuing to support millions affected by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock and the heads of 17 international organizations and several U.N. officials and humanitarian organizations issued a joint statement Thursday saying “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the country already experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis” as a result of the war, and expressing increasing alarm about the worsening situation.
Lowcock told a briefing Thursday that the U.N. has only received $516.6 million of the $3.4 billion it needs until the end of the year, amounting to just over 15%.
The U.N. humanitarian chief is urgently appealing for $2.4 billion to help millions in war-torn Yemen cope with the conflict and COVID-19, saying programs are already being cut and the situation is “alarming.”
The heads of 17 organizations representing the international humanitarian community saying “we are running out of time” to keep operations in the war-torn country functioning through the end of the year.
“Tragically, we do not have enough money to continue this work,” they said. “Of 41 major U.N. programs in Yemen, more than 30 will close in the next few weeks if we cannot secure additional funds.” “This means many more people will die,” they warned.
The 17 signatories said they have the skills, staff and capacity to meet the difficult challenges of delivering aid in Yemen, but no money. And time is running out. “We ask donors to pledge generously and pay pledges promptly,” they said.
Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early April. Since then, there have been 278 cases and 57 deaths, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, the partners said further testing and analysis are needed to gain a true picture of the epidemic’s toll.
“Official figures indicate that COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 10 of the country’s 22 provinces, demonstrating widespread transmission. But testing and reporting remain limited and it is likely that most areas of the country are already impacted, if not all”, they said.
The aid partners hope a virtual pledging conference next Tuesday will shore up financial support for their operations, which reach 10 million people each month.
Through donor funding in recent years, they have prevented widespread famine and rolled back the largest cholera outbreak in history, while also assisting families uprooted by the fighting.
Yemen’s embattled health system has been buckling under the additional strain of COVID-19.
Only half of all facilities are functioning, and many lack masks, gloves and other equipment, let alone oxygen and other essential supplies to treat the disease.
Meanwhile, sanitation and clean water are in short supply, and scores of health workers and frontline aid workers are operating without protective gear, most of whom are not receiving salaries.