What is happening in Yemen?
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Yemen was living through the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. This is what is happening in the country
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world hard. But for the people of Yemen, it is yet another crisis to add to a list of so many. Ongoing conflict, seasonal diseases, floods, and rising prices mean they are currently trying to survive in the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.
Eighty per cent of the 30.5 million-strong population need humanitarian assistance, with 14.3 million of those considered to be in acute need.
Twenty million people are ‘food insecure’ – meaning they don’t have reliable access to enough food – and the cost of living has skyrocketed since conflict began in the country in 2015. In fact, the price of a food basket (rice, lentils, milk, flour, beans, cooking oil, sugar and salt) has increased by 60 per cent.
The Yemeni healthcare system is under huge strain – half of the nation’s healthcare facilities are not operating, having been damaged or destroyed in the conflict.
These are huge numbers, but put simply: if Yemen were 100 people, 80 people would be entirely reliant on humanitarian support to survive, 66 people would barely have anything to eat and 64 people would have no access to healthcare.
Diseases like cholera and dengue fever are rife. In April 2020, 500 cases of cholera were reported in just 24 hours at an ICRC-supported hospital in the nation’s capital, Sana’a.
IF YEMEN WERE 100 PEOPLE, 80 PEOPLE WOULD BE ENTIRELY RELIANT ON HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT TO SURVIVE.
“Yemenis cope with so much hardship every day,” said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the capital. “Ongoing fighting in parts of the country causes daily despair, seasonal infectious diseases claim thousands of lives each year and high inflation is affecting the price of food, medicine, and other basic goods. COVID-19 is one more worry for people who are already so vulnerable.”
Torrential rainfall and devastating flooding
The country’s rainy season lasts from April to August. Only currently halfway through the season, cities including Sana’a and the southern port city of Aden recently experienced torrential rainfall and devastating flooding over the space of two weeks, affecting thousands and partially destroying people’s homes and businesses. To make matters much worse, a recent desert locust outbreak has pushed the country’s people even closer to famine.
The arrival of COVID-19 could prove catastrophic. We don’t yet know the true extent of the spread of this virus, but according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, currently one in 4 people who test positive for the virus will die.
In hospitals, many healthcare workers have no personal protective equipment, let alone access to ventilators and oxygen for patients. The Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS), supported by a global Red Cross response, is currently providing assistance to people in 15 quarantine facilities across the country. YRCS is also providing tents and sleeping mats to those stranded by coronavirus control measures.
Yemen must not be forgotten
The British Red Cross has long worked with the YRCS, responding to and preparing for crises just like this. We are supporting the YRCS to provide emergency health services in Hajjah, in the north, and also providing support to the ICRC, reaching people with safe drinking water and emergency food. Funds raised by the DEC appeal will help us to support the Red Cross Red Crescent response in Yemen as it expands to deal with COVID-19.
The impact of the pandemic on livelihoods in the Middle East and North Africa is likely to be unprecedented. Increased inflation and risk of supply chains being disrupted is likely to lead to food shortages and spikes in food prices - unthinkable in a place like Yemen, where chronic hunger and malnutrition are already common.
The numbers may be difficult for us to put into perspective, but the reality is that Yemen is not ready to cope with another crisis.
In this pandemic, Yemen must not be forgotten.
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