For the last five years, war has ravaged Yemen, leaving thousands dead and millions coping with extreme food insecurity—and making the country especially vulnerable to a global pandemic. As The Guardian reported, “Yemen has been troubled by civil wars for decades, but the current conflict intensified in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised government against Houthi rebels aligned with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.” (The United States has been involved in the war for years backing the Saudi-led coalition.)
In February 2019, the United Nations called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen the worst in the world, reporting that nearly 80 percent of the population needed assistance, with 14.3 million people in acute need and about 3.2 million people requiring treatment for acute malnutrition.
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Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has created what UNICEF called an “emergency within an emergency” due to a short supply of clean water, poor sanitation, and the country’s dearth of functioning health facilities; many of the health facilities that do remain lack essential equipment and supplies. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs described the current situation in a recent release, writing:
“Yemen is entering its almost sixth year of conflict, and the fragile health system and a population that has survived on food aid for years lives in fear. The health system in Yemen is only functioning at 50 percent, and health system functionality, such as access and capacity of health-care personnel, is at less than 40 percent. Chronic malnutrition has left Yemenis vulnerable, their weakened immune systems a prime target for this virus.”
Even as Yemenis are struggling, the pandemic has also contributed to a dip in aid funds as nations around the world try to manage their own economies. CBS News reported that the United Nations held a virtual donors conference this June, but international donors only pledged $1.35 billion, about $1 billion short of the UN’s target. The New York Times reported that funding cuts also came before the pandemic due to concerns that the Houthis were diverting aid from where it was needed. And for millions of Yemenis, cash transfers from relatives and friends abroad, which typically serve as a “a vital source of money,” are also in decline as a result of the pandemic’s economic impact.
Yemen was already in crisis, but now, its people are in even more dire need. Below, a few ways to help.
How to help:
- Donate to Doctors Without Borders, which is running the only treatment center in southern Yemen dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
- Donate to the UN World Food Programme, which helps to feed millions of Yemenis each month. In April, a dip in funding required the WFP to go from providing food monthly to every other month.
- Donate to local Yemeni organizations like Mona, which provides humanitarian relief to families.
- Donate to larger organizations providing aid like UNICEF, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee.
- The International Rescue Committee also recommends calling your senators at (202) 224-3121 to “insist the U.S. end its military support and use its leverage to push for an inclusive peace agreement to end the war.”
- And as always, continue to spread the word about what’s happening in Yemen.
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