World’s worst humanitarian crisis and coronavirus pandemic
Following the uptick in attacks on Yemeni ports and other vital facilities, Yemen’s health minister held a presser in Sana’a, accusing Saudi Arabia of deliberately attempting to spread the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical authorities in Sana’a’ reported their first case of the novel coronavirus, a Somali national who had underlying liver and kidney problems and was found dead in their Sana’a hotel. The health minister, Taha al-Mutawakkil, said, “We received a report about a situation in a hotel in the capital Sana’a on Sunday and epidemiological investigation teams went there immediately, where the affected person had died.
As a result of the ongoing blockade, particularly on medical devices, the coronavirus is suspected to have already spread undetected across much of the country, with testing virtually nonexistent. Moreover, 70 percent of all medical facilities in the country are not functioning and are poorly positioned to treat victims of the respiratory virus, let alone to protect healthcare workers.
According to the UN, most Yemeni healthcare workers have not been paid, or have been paid irregularly, for over two years, it added that equipment and medical supplies are insufficient or obsolete.
The attacks on food and medicine trucks come as Yemen grapples with funding cuts from international aid organizations according to the Aid Chief of the World Health Organization (WHO), who said that nutrition programs will also be cut and 80 percent of health services provided through U.N.-funded programs could also stop.
The WHO also said that there are currently 260,000 severely malnourished children and 2 million others that will be affected by moderate malnutrition. “These children’s immune systems will be weakened, making them much more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other diseases,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Lowcock has called for nearly $60 million to urgently protect the health and safety of women and girls in Yemen, where figures show that every two hours a woman loses her life during labor.
On Monday, the UN warned that a shocking 16 million Yemenis are at risk of contracting the coronavirus, dealing a whopping blow to what it has already described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The “most likely scenario would see COVID-19 strike 55 percent of Yemen’s entire population, the global body’s aid chief, Lise Grande said. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said $24 million was also needed for the COVID-19 response to protect health workers and help women and girls gain access to reproductive health services.
This pandemic has proven a formidable foe for the health-care systems of advanced, stable countries like those in Europea, but to Yemen, which is suffering from five years of the war and an ongoing Saudi blockade, COVID-19 could result in an unprecedented death toll reminiscent of that that the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 wrought upon much of the world.