Covid-19 pandemic poses new challenge to country already devastated by war
With a recent upsurge in fighting in Yemen, the forthcoming rainy season and tightening of borders due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, there’s no end in sight to the daily toll of death, disease and displacement five years after the conflict escalated, Oxfam warned today.
One civilian has died every three and a half hours in fighting since the Saudi coalition entered the war in support of the internationally recognized government against the Houthis. Many more in that time have succumbed to disease and hunger. For every hour of the last five years,
- more than 90 people have had to flee their homes,
- more than 50 suspected cases of cholera have been reported and,
- the number of people going hungry has increased by more than 100
Coronavirus poses a fresh challenge to Yemen. Flights into and out of the country have been stopped, restricting movement for some aid workers responding to the humanitarian crisis. Only 50% of health centers in Yemen are functioning, and even those that are open are facing severe shortages of medicines, equipment and staff. Around 17 million people – more than half the population – have no access to clean water.
The forthcoming rainy season could cause another surge in the cholera outbreak in Yemen which has already recorded the two largest numbers of suspected cases in any country in a single year, in 2017 and 2019.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “While the international community is rightly concerned about protecting its own citizens from coronavirus, it has a responsibility to the people of Yemen.
“After five years of death, disease and displacement and in the face of a rising threat from a global pandemic, Yemenis desperately need all warring parties to agree to an immediate countrywide ceasefire and return to negotiations to achieving a lasting peace.”
Between March 26, 2015 and March 7, 2020, an estimated 12,366 civilians were killed in the fighting. After a decrease in hostilities towards the end of 2019, fighting escalated again across Sana’a, Marib and Aljawf governorates in January and February this year.
The UN estimates 35,000 civilians have had to flee their homes as a result. They join the more than four million Yemenis who had already had to move to makeshift camps or other communities across the country since 2015. That means that more than 90 people have had to flee their homes for every hour of the conflict over the last five years.
Since the start of a cholera outbreak in 2017, there have been more than 2.3 million suspected cases of the disease – and more than 50 per hour over the last five years. With rainy season due to start in April, cases are likely to surge again. Oxfam’s projection is that there could be just over a million cases in 2020.
The number of people going hungry has increased by 4.7m in the last five years – that’s more than 100 people every hour.
Siddiquey said: “The world knows how to prevent and treat cholera and hunger – these are not new diseases. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is entirely man made, caused not only by the warring parties but also by those who choose to add fuel to the fire by arming them.”
Notes to Eds
- With guidance from the WHO and Yemen’s Ministry of Health, Oxfam is planning to respond to the threat of COVID-19 in Yemen by training community health volunteers to raise awareness of the virus and how to prevent it.
- Data on the number of civilian deaths has been provided by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and is available here
- Data on the number of people displaced comes from the International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix. Their reports show that at least 4.03m people have been displaced in Yemen between 26 March 26 2015 and 7 March 2020
- Data on the number of suspected cholera cases comes from the WHO and is available here. It shows there were 2,325,812 suspected cases between March 26, 2015 and March 5, 2020.
- Data on the number of people classified as undernourished has been taken from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN’s State of Food Insecurity in the World which in between December 2014 and December 2019 showed an increase from 6.3m people to 11m people.