Yemen coronavirus: experts fear that the nation may suffer one of the worst outbreaks in the world

A health worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant at a market in the old city of Sanaa in April.

The cuts came after United Nations appeals for $ 2.42 billion in funding fell by about 50% this week.

“In the closing countdown there will be much larger cuts to Yemen at a time when the country is facing the growing impact of the viral pandemic on people who are already severely malnourished and ill-equipped to cope,” Lise Grande, the chief The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told CNN in a phone call to Sana’a on Wednesday, the capital of the divided nation.

“General health services in 189 of the country’s 369 hospitals will begin to close in three weeks. Water and sanitation services for 8.5 million people, including 3 million children, will close in three weeks. Support Nutrition for 2.5 million children hungry for malnutrition will begin closing in 8 to 10 weeks, “he warned.

On Tuesday, donors pledged $ 1.35 billion out of the $ 2.42 billion that the United Nations said Yemen needed in a virtual conference. “The worst case scenario – which is what we are facing now – means that the death toll from the virus could outweigh the overall war, disease and hunger toll in the past five years [in Yemen]”Grande said to CNN.

According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, just over 112,000 people were killed in Yemen’s civil war in five years – 12,690 civilians were among the dead.

Estimates on the number of people who died from disease and malnutrition in the country are very different. But the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations are providing humanitarian assistance to 10 million Yemenis. According to the United Nations, a cholera epidemic has already infected 110,000 people this year.

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Four out of five Yemenis need “life-saving aid,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference Tuesday, adding that Yemen had to face one of the world’s highest death tolls since Covid-19. The country has negligible ability to test for coronavirus, but medical care agencies also believe that the scope of infections could be vast.

Health services for women who gave birth in 150 UN-supported hospitals were shut down in the first wave of cuts after the funding conference this week.

Yemen’s five-year civil war pitted Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized government, which was supported by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year the Emirates withdrew their armed forces from the conflict, but continue to support the government, which is in exile in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, meanwhile, has continued to support and finance tribal militias and its air force has had a punitive effect on the ground.

Much of the shortage of new funding is attributed to the apparent inability of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to present a combined commitment which, in previous years, was about $ 1.5 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have not offered funds to the United Nations effort this year and Saudi Arabia has offered $ 500 million of which $ 300 million specifically allocated to the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia has been eager to get out of the quicksand since late last year. The war has undermined support for Saudi Arabia in Washington, where new arms supplies to the Kingdom from the United States were only possible following the use of emergency powers by the Trump administration to circumvent a blockade of exports of arms in Saudi Arabia imposed by Congress.

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Some diplomats believe that the Gulf countries’ cut of funding to the United Nations may be, in part, an attempt to force the Houti into peace talks.

Aid to areas under Houthi’s control has often been diverted and manipulated by the rebel administration of Sanaa. The United Nations World Food Program has often complained about Houtis’ diversion of food – and the United States has cut funding for the program to force improvement.

US support of $ 225 million was returned to WFP only recently after the Houthi agreed to prevent humanitarian workers from being harassed and a wide range of aid “taxes” from coming into the area under the their control.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates say they want to continue helping Yemen with aid, but insist that they should not be diverted to Houthi’s war effort. In the Emirates it is understood that the government is trying to find ways to continue financing aid operations.

“The United Arab Emirates spared no effort in providing medical assistance to support countries affected by Covid-19 by cooperating with international organizations, where the United Arab Emirates’ assistance was $ 135 million from early March until the end. in May, “Reem al Hashimy, Emirate said the international cooperation minister in a statement to CNN.

“In addition, the UAE Red Crescent continues to work in Yemen to help our Yemeni brothers and we deeply regret the loss of two of its employees killed by terrorists in March. However, this will not deter us from handing over the our mission and humanitarian duty, “he added to Hashimy.

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But it is not clear to United Nations officials how this “duty” can be fulfilled while, as a senior United Nations official said, “our operations are almost collapsing.”

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