'Xenophobia and scapegoating campaigns are leading to retaliation against these vulnerable communities, including physical and verbal harassment'
UN to Houthis: Stop stigmatizing and scapegoating migrants for coronavirus
In a statement released Sunday, two UN organizations accused the Houthis of inciting fear and hatred towards African migrants in Yemen by stigmatizing them as carriers of the novel coronavirus.
On May 5, the Houthis publicly announced the first confirmed coronavirus case in the territories under its control: A Somali refugee who passed away in a hotel in the capital, Sana’a. A Houthi-affiliated lab had confirmed four cases in rebel-held areas that day, according to lab results seen by Almasdar Online, but the group has yet to comment on those tests.
A joint statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called on Yemenis to continue “longstanding charitable acceptance of, and support to, vulnerable communities, including migrants.”
“Xenophobia and scapegoating campaigns are leading to retaliation against these vulnerable communities, including physical and verbal harassment, forced quarantine, denial of access to health services, movement restrictions, and forced movements to frontline and desert areas, leaving them stranded without food, water and essential services.”
Yemen is often a stopover for migrants intending to reach wealthier countries in the Gulf for work opportunities. Migrants have continued their journeys through Yemen throughout the five-year civil war, albeit in lower numbers recently as the pandemic hampers the harrowing journey.
More than 11,100 migrants reached Yemen in January, compared to only 1,725 in April, according to the UN bodies. But many migrants and refugees who began their migration before the heights of the pandemic are now stranded in Yemen.
“Migrants should not be stigmatized or associated with the risk of importing diseases. It is conditions on the route from Africa to the Arabian Gulf, including barriers to health services, poor living and working conditions and exploitation, which pose serious health risks. We must join together to address these risks and stop stigmatization,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Yemen’s confirmed cases total 58 nationwide, though deaths throughout the country that accompanied fevers and COVID-19 symptoms suggest the actual number of coronavirus infections may be much higher.
On Monday, Yemen’s national coronavirus committee declared the interim capital of Aden an “infested city,” given that it is home to the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as a number of other diseases following recent floods, and called on donor and aid groups for urgent support. The UN has pleaded with the Houthis to fully and accurately account for the number of cases in the north, emphasizing that resources are available to countries based on the confirmed number of coronavirus cases.
Edited by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs