Amid Yemen’s spiraling humanitarian crisis, relief bodies issue $2.4 billion appeal
Ahead of the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, to be virtually co-convened by the United Nations and Saudi Arabia on June 2, UN agencies and international humanitarian bodies issued a joint statement on Thursday calling for $2.41 billion in funding for relief efforts.
In the joint statement, the head representatives of 17 leading international humanitarian organizations and agencies said they are “running out of time” to maintain their operations in Yemen through to the end of 2020. The urgent appeal comes as the country is facing a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and a host of other epidemics, in addition to continued fighting on many fronts despite a purported ceasefire.
The statement warns of the rapid deterioration facing Yemen’s already fragile health system as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus in governorates around Yemen, which is already experiencing the world's largest humanitarian crisis, driven by a six-year conflict.
The humanitarian agencies said that official figures indicate that there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 10 out of Yemen’s 22 governorates, but that testing and reporting systems are still limited and the virus is likely to have already spread to most, if not all, areas of the country. The statement stressed the need to “conduct more tests and analyses to provide a true picture of the pandemic and to the death rate in Yemen,” adding that “there is a shortage of test kits in Yemen, and official reports are very different from actual cases.”
The statement notes that existing pledges for 2020 are still “far below” what is required, and remarking that “pledges cannot save lives” the statement adds that many of the pledges made by donors have not yet been paid.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud, will co-host the virtual event with Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief. Ahead of the event on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia called on donor countries to provide financial support and pledges to meet Yemen's humanitarian needs.
According to the state-run Saudi News Agency, the “Donor Conference for Yemen 2020” will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and it will be broadcast online by both the UN (http://webtv.un.org) and Saudi Arabia (https://ksrelief.org/live). The event is aimed to “raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and announce financial pledges to meet basic needs there,” the agency said.
Without sufficient funding, the UN and its global partners said, at risk are programs that provide food to over 10 million hungry people in Yemen, provide vital assistance to displaced persons, and provide treatment for epidemics like cholera and dengue fever. The continuation of these programs “is more important now that the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading throughout the country – especially when we remember that hunger, malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever and vaccine-preventable diseases have not diminished,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, Auke Lootsma, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Yemen, on Friday warned that “millions” more Yemenis are at risk of going hungry due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There are 38 COVID-19 hospitals across the country, all of which have fully occupied beds,” Lootsma said. “Yet Yemen reported only 237 confirmed cases and 45 deaths at the end of May. This is likely a gross underestimation of the numbers.”
“Due to cost, fear, lack of space in hospitals and a shortage of healthcare workers, Yemenis are dying at home, undetected, undocumented, and possibly having spread the virus to their loved ones,” he added.
“COVID-19 is a crisis on top of the existing crises of war, famine, and other rampant communicable diseases such as cholera, malaria, and dengue fever,” he said. “The country, having already endured so much, is yet again facing another heart-breaking situation.”
Edited by Alkhatab Alrawhani