The United Nations has warned that three-quarters of aid programs supported by its agencies in war-torn Yemen will close in a few weeks without more funding, even as COVID-19 and cholera continue to spread in the country facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The long-standing conflict in Yemen has mainly pitted the Houthi rebels against a pro-government camp supported by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The fighting has left 24 million Yemenis – more than two-thirds of the population – depend on some form of aid.
International donors pledged $ 1.35 billion for Yemen at a conference on June 2 – but it was far below the $ 2.4 billion fundraising target needed to avoid serious cuts in the UN aid operation.
“More than 30 of the 41 United Nations-supported programs in Yemen will be closed in the coming weeks if additional funds are not obtained,” said United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, at a conference in Geneva.
“Now, more than ever, the country needs help from the outside world, and it is not really getting it,” he said.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the United States Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that only 47% of the $ 1.35 billion pledged had actually been received.
Yemen has so far reported 564 confirmed coronavirus infections and 130 related deaths, but the numbers are behind the times and may not include all cases in Houthi-controlled areas in the north, said Colville.
The difficult situation is compounded by the country’s extremely limited testing capacity. According to data compiled by the International Rescue Committee, Yemen has one of the lowest test rates in the world, even compared to other conflict-affected countries, at only 31 tests per million citizens.
At the same time, some 137,000 cases of cholera and diarrhea were recorded this year, including a quarter in children under the age of five, according to the UN.
The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions more, pushing the impoverished country to the brink of starvation and draining its infrastructure.
The UN says the country’s health system has collapsed, with hospitals running out of beds and basic medicines and driving the sick back. The country the malnourished population has one of the lowest immunity levels in the world.
The global children’s agency, UNICEF, said water, sanitation and hygiene services for four million people would start shutting down in July if they didn’t get $ 30 million. ‘by the end of this month.
“The crisis has cataclysmic proportions,” Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF representative for Yemen, told Al Jazeera.
She said a lack of COVID-19 testing exacerbates the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where young boys and girls are most at risk.
“The children of Yemen are worse off than all the children in the world – and for us it is an emergency. ”
” [There is] a pre-existing situation where children were already in need and where children are facing multiple problems – and COVID-19 only adds to their complex and very difficult lives. ”