COVID-19 poses a uniquely high risk for Yemen. COVID-19 is yet to be confirmed in Yemen, however, the likelihood of its spread is high as cases in surrounding countries continue to grow: 2,752 in Saudi Arabia, 1,832 in Qatar and 756 in Bahrain (MEEDCOVID19-CASES 07/04/2020).
The country’s infrastructure has been devastated by five years of conflict, leaving little capacity to respond. Only 51% of health centres are fully functional. There is limited medicine, equipment and personal protection equipment available and only two testing sites (Sana’aAden and Al Mukalla).
Current conflict escalation, displacement and overcrowding make it difficult to implement protection measures (social spacing, hand washing). Over 3.6 million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict. Over one third live in camps and informal settlements which are overcrowded and lack proper access to sanitation.
Poor media and lack of trust in public institutions makes it challenging to deliver behaviour change messaging. Yemen ranks 168 of 180 on the 2019 World Press Freedom index.
Yemen relies on imports for 80 to 90% of its basic needs, making it particularly vulnerable to disruptions in the world economy.
COVID 19 risks are pulling scarce resources from other lifesaving health responses including cholera and dengue.
The crisis could also provide a guise for parties to the Yemeni conflict to impose new measures of control on humanitarian action and vulnerable, marginalized groups, such as access restrictions for fleeing populations and assessing remote project sites.