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UN fears novel virus spreading in underfunded Yemen

UN fears novel virus spreading in underfunded Yemen

The United Nations expressed its strong concern that the novel virus is spreading fast in war-torn Yemen. Being underfunded, the nation is not able to adequately respond to the outbreak. There is a “very real probability” the new coronavirus is circulating in Yemen, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

In Yemen, an aid funding shortfall would compromise efforts to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. One of the most vulnerable nations in the Middle East, whose population has been weakened by widespread hunger and disease, is urgent needs support.

As the UN health experts suggests, one laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case in Yemen looks weird. The lack of testing and the collapsed health system could lead to a devastating outbreak.

The office of the UN aid chief in Yemen said that based on transmission patterns in other countries and given 17 days have passed since Yemen reported its first case, “agencies are warning there is now a very real probability that the virus has been circulating undetected and unmitigated within communities”.

“This increases the likelihood of a surge of cases which may quickly overwhelm health capacities,” it said in a statement.

The case announced on April 10, a 60-year-old port official, has since recovered and tested negative for the virus, Yemen’s coronavirus committee said on Monday.

UN: Yemen faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis

Over five years of the internal armed conflict, Yemen is grappling with the largest humanitarian crisis ever. The war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi group that ousted the internationally recognized government from power in the capital, Sanaa.

Thus, 8 of 10 Yemeni citizens (about 24 million people) rely on aid from international sponsors, while another 10 million are facing famine. The COVID-19 outbreak is just deteriorating the situation.

Under such conditions, the coronavirus could spread rapidly, and the funding gap is compounding the risk. As the recent UN statement confirmed, 31 of 41 major UN humanitarian assistance programs will scale-down or stop in coming weeks without more money.

Meanwhile, Yemen used to rely on humanitarian aid from the major donor, the US Agency for International Development. However, USAID cut funding last month over concerns that Houthi authorities are hindering aid distribution. The group, which controls most major urban centers, has dismissed the charges as baseless.

In mid-April the World Food Programme (WFP) said it had halved food aid to Houthi-controlled areas.

Refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday it received only 28% of funding required this year and needs $89.4 million to assist more than 3.6 million displaced people, alongside foreign refugees and host communities.

A senior US official recently told Reuters the United States is preparing a “substantial contribution” to help Yemen’s anti-virus efforts.