“There are no cases or suspected cases of infection,” a UN official told Almasdar Online

COVID-19 update: UN refutes Houthi claim that three aid workers are infected with coronavirus

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen (OCHA) has denied Houthi claims that three UN staff in Sana’a have been infected with COVID-19. 

An official in OCHA's office told Almasdar Online that the information in a Houthi memorandum released on Thursday was "incorrect.” 

“There are no cases or suspected cases of infection,” said the official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Issued by the Houthi-controlled Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (SCMCHA) to international NGOs in Sana’a, the memo stated that UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Lise Grande, declined to reveal the identities of the staff with the suspected infections. 

Three officials in three international organizations working closely with the UN in Yemen told Almasdar Online that there were no infections or suspected infections of UN staff or relief and humanitarian organizations working in Yemen.

An employee of an international aid organization whothat received the memorandum told Almasdar Online that the Houthi restrictions would simply be a formality, as UN and international NGOorganization staff have been working from home for some time as a precautionary measure taken by those organizations to protect their staff from COVID-19 and to prevent its spread to others. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.  

The SCMCHA, which the Houthis formed in early November to monitor all humanitarian projects in the country, has had a contentious relationship with the international aid community. 

Following months of accusations that the Houthi humanitarian oversight body had been holding aid work hostage in parts of Yemen where people are starving, the UN and other international NGO’s held a summit in Brussels in February at which they gave the Houthis an ultimatum: stop obstructing aid work or we will freeze operations. 

In response, Houthi Prime Minister Abdulaziz Saleh Bin Habtoor agreed to return 120 metric tons of lentils SCMCHA workers had stolen from the World Food Programme in January, release the UN food agency’s biometric equipment confiscated at the airport in Sana’a and cancel a controversial 2 percent tax on all international humanitarian operations in Yemen.


Editing by Casey Coombs and Ahlam Mohsen



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