Coronavirus, Yemen collapsing. The Oxfam alarm


The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Yemen is likely in the coming weeks and months to literally bring the country to the brink of collapse. The health impact is potentially devastating: there are already almost 400 cases and over 80 victims to date, with the infection that has officially reached 10 out of 22 governorates, but it may have already spread to almost the whole country and increase exponentially in the coming weeks.

The alarm comes from Oxfam, which denounces the almost total lack of tests and prevention tools not only among the population, but also in the few health facilities in operation: doctors and nurses on the front line do not have masks, gloves, oxygen for therapies intensive, half of the hospitals have been destroyed by 5 and a half years of war, the few structures in operation are already saturated and in several cases patients with high fever and respiratory crisis cannot be treated.

Equally serious is the impact on an economy already on its knees: remittances from Yemeni refugees from abroad have fallen by 80% in at least 6 areas of Yemen, from January to April, due to the lockdown in many countries. Remittances on which the survival of 1 out of 10 Yemeni depend and which in 2019 amounted to 3.8 billion dollars, equal to 13% of GDP, denounces Oxfam in the aftermath of the International Conference on the crisis, which has seen once again donor countries turn the other way.

In fact, the United Nations’ call for a humanitarian response for 2020 is currently financed only for just over a third of what is necessary to prevent a real humanitarian disaster. From yesterday’s summit, a commitment of just $ 1.3 billion in aid came out of the $ 3.4 billion needed to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the coming months. The United Nations on the eve expected to reach at least $ 2.4 billion in aid.

From Italy – which to date had allocated just 5 million a year for the emergency – an increase of just 160 thousand euros has come. A figure that is just enough to guarantee 2 months of humanitarian interventions by an organization such as Oxfam in the country and which is even smaller compared to the 195 million euros of Italian armaments whose export to Arabia was authorized in 2019 Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, both involved in a conflict that has already caused over 100,000 victims.

“Starving before Covid. We cannot leave an entire people in front of this hallucinating alternative – said Paolo Pezzati, Oxfam Italia’s policy advisor for humanitarian emergencies – The priority is that the appropriations promised at yesterday’s International Conference, which fell significantly compared to 2.6 billions allocated to last year’s summit, are made immediately available for an adequate humanitarian response. Without them, 5.5 million lives are at risk, with several field aid programs that could close in a few weeks. As Covid advances, 10 million people are on the verge of famine, 17 million have no access to clean water and sanitation.

An extraordinary effort is needed to face the pandemic, not only in terms of appropriations, but also for an immediate ceasefire, without which it will be increasingly difficult to help the population. At the same time, Italy, which has already expressed itself on this front, as well as on the intention to facilitate humanitarian access for the population, must give as much concreteness as possible to its commitment. Not only by increasing aid for emergency response, but for example by finding a solution that allows it to be more present in the country “.

With about 3.6 million internally displaced people, including 100 thousand since the beginning of the year, Yemen is experiencing one of the most serious refugee emergencies in the world. Hundreds of thousands of families, in the vast majority of cases, are forced to live in conditions of promiscuity, in makeshift housing without being able to respect the necessary distance, without access to basic care, clean water and soap to wash their hands. More than half are women, 27% are children and young people under the age of 18. They are among the most exposed to contagion at the moment, they depend largely on humanitarian aid to survive. With the collapse of remittances from abroad, their number is expected to increase. All in the context of a country where over 24 million Yemenis already depend on aid for water, food, medicine and basic necessities, including 12 million children and 1.4 million pregnant women suffering from severe malnutrition .

“Since my son, who is in Saudi Arabia, stopped working last April, I have been forced to show food on credit at the market and I cannot pay the rent,” said Abu Ameer, who now lives as a displaced person in Sanàa. after fighting forced him to flee Haradh three years ago. The transfers of money from his son, for him and his family of 7, were the only source of livelihood until a month ago. “Remittances not only represent the only chance of life for millions of people, but also a barrier to the default of the entire Yemeni economy, being an important injection of foreign currency – continues Pezzati -.
In 2018, we witnessed a sharp devaluation of the Yemeni Rial, which led to an exponential increase in the price of fuel, food and medicines, which are almost totally imported into the country. Now with the collapse of foreign remittances the same thing could happen due to the reduction of foreign exchange reserves. And once again the first to pay for it will be innocent families ”.

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