As if five years of armed conflict and humanitarian crisis were not enough, the new corona virus poses an added serious threat to the lives of Yemeni people.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the spread of coronavirus will have “catastrophic” results, due to the increase in the number of cases in Yemen, where the war had already led to the collapse of the healthcare system. Sixteen million Yemenis (50% of the population) are expected to catch the virus in a fragile healthcare system that functions at only 50% of its capacity(1).
The Yemeni government admitted its inability to fight the spread of the virus due the obstacles created by the transitional council and the Houthis, who cover up data regarding cases. Millions of Yemenis who depend on aid are in increased danger because of the dwindling foreign aid(2).
In this brief, the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) documents the measures and responses of the Republic of Yemen to the corona pandemic, as well as the measures it took to protect vulnerable groups such as the poor, the elderly, children, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities. ARDD has been producing a series of briefs about the reality of social protection in the Arab world.
Due to war, as well as the spread of the coronavirus, more than 12 million children and 6 million women face serious threats, including malnutrition, and are more likely to catch the virus. In addition, over 3 million displaced people live in unhealthy conditions in overcrowded areas(3).
Yemen is facing yet another crisis due to the wide spread of the coronavirus, with 16 million people expected to catch the virus in view of the rival parties’ “careless” attitude; worse, in most areas of Yemen, there are no measures in place to deal with the pandemic(4).
The country is expected to witness a sharp increase in the number of cases due to limited access to healthcare and food, and the absence of water, sanitation and many other services that Yemenis can only obtain through international aid organisations.
The many homeless wandering about pose a real danger when infected with the corona virus, as they continuously interact with people, easily passing it on. They are in dire need of social and health care; not included in the government or international organisations’ efforts, they usually remain forgotten by everyone(5).
The displaced run the highest risk of catching the virus since they live in dangerously overcrowded camps. Besides their inability to maintain physical distancing or self-isolate when they catch the virus, they lack proper healthcare, water and sanitation, and basic needs(6)
The coronavirus threatens the lives of millions of Yemenis, especially children, who suffer from famine, malnutrition, chronic diseases, and lack of aid. A report by the British Independent titled “2020 could be worst year yet for hunger in Yemen with millions on brink of famine” says that millions are trapped in a state of hunger and malnutrition, facing an acute humanitarian crisis(7).
Since the start of the pandemic in Yemen, many youth initiatives were launched by Yemeni activists. Among them, “a rent-free month” that calls on property owners to exempt renters from paying rent, as well as initiatives aiming at raising awareness among people on how to protect themselves(8).
In response to the dire prospects of the spread of coronavirus, four civil society organisations called on the warring parties to take measures to fight the” terrifying spread of the virus in the country”. They launched an initiative aiming at uniting the efforts exerted to fight the virus and at showing transparency in dealing with it(9).
These organisations are: SAM for Rights and Liberties, the American Centre for Law and Justice, Women for Yemen, and DFRF. They called for an urgent 3-month truce, release of prisoners, and opening airports, ports and land entry points to allow aid into the country(10).
The lives of tens of thousands of prisoners are also in danger due to the spread of the virus in extremely overcrowded prisons where inmates lack healthcare. No deaths from corona in prisons and detention centres were declared by authorities, but there is word that many prisoners died(11).
The coronavirus could be the worst crisis civilians in Yemen have been facing so far. To enable Yemen to fight this pandemic, warring parties must take immediate measures to protect Yemenis in their areas, follow the rules of war, and facilitate the entry of aid into the country. Better yet, they should stop the mindless conflict altogether.