Yemen’s failing health system amid Covid-19 has put millions at risk

(Source: UN/Twitter)

New Delhi (NVI): Covid-19 pandemic has made life tougher for people in Yemen which has been devastated by five years of war. The humanitarian situation in Yemen, in its sixth year of conflict, is still the worst in the world.

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across Yemen. About 25 per cent of Yemenis confirmed to have the disease have died. That’s five times the global average.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), some 24 million people, which is 80 per cent of the country’s entire population, require some form of assistance or protection.

As of June 18, 906 COVID-19 cases have been recorded, including 245 deaths. However, there are thousands of people in the country suffering from non-COVID-19 diseases, who are at risk of being de-prioritized due to attention being diverted to the coronavirus.

In Yemen, people are not only in the world’s worst crisis but also face having life-saving aid being cut back. There is lack of adequate testing and treatment facilities in the war-torn country. The actual incidence of COVID-19 is almost certainly much higher. Aid agencies in Yemen are operating on the basis that community transmission is taking place across the country.

According to the UN report, nearly 18 million people in Yemen do not have regular access to clean water, and the conflict has destroyed health-care facilities and left people with some of the lowest levels of immunity and highest levels of acute vulnerability in the world.

Apart from that, major UN programmes in Yemen face reduction or closure, with devastating impact on efforts to prepare for COVID-19. Of the UN’s 41 major programmes in Yemen, 31 have reduced or closed down their activities. Up to 1 million displaced people will not be able to receive critical supplies – including hygiene items that help protect against diseases such as cholera and COVID-19.

As per the report, nutrition programmes will also be cut, affecting 260,000 severely malnourished children and 2 million more children with moderate malnutrition. At least 80 per cent of health services provided through the response could stop at the end of April. This could mean disbanding local health teams that have been and would be essential in detecting COVID-19 and containing past disease outbreaks such as cholera.

Besides that, Yemen’s currency could collapse as the global economy grapples with the impact of COVID-19. The country’s health system is on the verge of collapse. Nearly half of health facilities are non-functioning or partially functioning. Equipment and medical supplies are inadequate or obsolete, and health workers have gone without pay or received irregular pay for more than two years, says the report.

Malnutrition rates among women and children in Yemen remain among the highest in the world. More than 1 million women and 2 million children require treatment for acute malnutrition.

Civilians, mostly children, are bearing the brunt of the violence. In the first quarter of this year, civilian casualties have risen every month, with more than 500 people killed or injured. One in every three civilian casualties has been a child.