The international humanitarian community working in Yemen issued a statement on Thursday, saying they are “running out of time” to keep operations in the war-torn country functioning through the end of the year.
The heads of 17 organizations representing UN agencies and their global partners are seeking US$2.41 billion to fight COVID-19 spread in Yemen while continuing to support millions affected by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early April. Since then, there have been 260 cases and 54 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 governorates, 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 humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been driven by more than five years of fighting between government troops, supported by international allies, and Ansar Allah rebels, also known as Houthis.
The UN continues to work on bringing the warring sides to reach a lasting peace.
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.
“Tragically, we do not have enough money to continue this work”, they said.
“Of 41 major UN programmes 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.”
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.
The conflict has been particularly devastating for Yemen’s women and children.
More than 12 million children and six million women of childbearing age need some kind of humanitarian assistance, the humanitarians reported, while more than one million pregnant women are malnourished.
The ongoing fighting means Yemenis are forced to flee their homes, with nearly 100,000 uprooted this year alone.
Overall, the conflict has displaced some 3.6 million people. They are living in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions which make it impossible to practice physical distancing and other measures to contain COVID-19. Again, most of those affected are women and children.
Amidst the mounting challenges, the UN and its humanitarian partners continue to provide protection and support that prioritizes the most vulnerable citizens in Yemen. (Source: UN News)