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The fight against COVID-19: helping save lives in Yemen

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The United Nations, donor countries and international partners held a virtual conference to discuss how the increased need for humanitarian assistance can be met in Yemen, also in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the UN, the country is experiencing one of the largest and most severe humanitarian crises in the world.

Eighty percent of the Yemeni population are dependent on humanitarian aid. The United Nations estimates that over the next seven months humanitarian aid to the tune of 2.4 billion US dollars will be needed to alleviate the worst of the suffering. The focus must be on life-saving measures, such as provision of food and basic healthcare. This is why the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and Saudi Arabia organised a virtual donors conference. The aim was to ensure that donor countries provide enough funds so that aid organisations can carry on their life-saving activities.

In view of the increased need for humanitarian assistance and the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen, the German Government is maintaining its substantial humanitarian efforts. At the conference, Minister of State Niels Annen announced that the Federal Foreign Office will make available 125 million euro for humanitarian assistance in Yemen in 2020. The areas in which Germany is providing support include emergency food aid, healthcare, water and sanitation, as well as protective measures. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is also providing funding in the amount of 70 million euro for measures to strengthen resilience.

The threat posed by COVID-19

Although the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yemen is in the low three figures, according to UN reports and other humanitarian partners the virus is already rapidly spreading throughout the country. A widespread outbreak would have devastating consequences, as the healthcare system has been weakened by several years of conflict and is only able to treat a very limited number of COVID-19 patients. There is a lack of medical equipment, personal protective equipment, medication and medical personnel. Already now, Yemen’s population is suffering from outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and malaria, and has been weakened by widespread malnutrition.

The German Government is making available an additional 300 million euro for COVID-19-related humanitarian assistance, in the context of the UN’s global humanitarian appeal and other aid packages. The money will help address humanitarian crises around the world and is being used, among other places, in Yemen. As part of the 125 million euro that Germany pledged at the conference, the Federal Foreign Office is making available five million euro to the World Health Organization’s activities in Yemen, where the WHO is providing basic healthcare services and helping to counter COVID-19.

Safeguarding humanitarian access

Germany is campaigning, also in the UN Security Council, to make sure that aid that is provided actually reaches the people who need it. Minister of State Annen made it clear that, when it comes to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the responsible parties in Yemen also play an important role:

We appeal to all relevant authorities in Yemen to cooperate with the United Nations and other humanitarian actors. All restrictions on access must be immediately and permanently lifted, civilians and civilian infrastructure protected, and international humanitarian law upheld.