The imminent threat of coronavirus could break Yemen’s already fragile healthcare system. The Yemen-based NGO Mwatana for Human Rights warns that following five years of war and a Saudi-led bombardment which has destroyed hospitals, aid facilities and other infrastructure, the country’s healthcare system has “almost collapsed”; it is reportedly operating at 50 per cent capacity. Over recent weeks, the World Health Organisation has increased distribution of protective gear and test equipment to the country in anticipation of an “explosion” of coronavirus cases.
It is not the only pandemic Yemen is worried about. Since cholera first broke out in Yemen in 2017, there have been over 2.3 million suspected cases of the deadly, entirely preventable disease – and this week, Oxfam warned that the months ahead could see a resurgence of cases. According to UNICEF, 18 million Yemeni people lack access to clean water and sanitation, exponentially increasing the risk of both diseases.
Even before these two threats emerged, Yemen was already enduring the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project estimates that over 100,000 people have been killed as a result of the war – yet that could be a significant underestimate. In 2018, Save the Children found that 85,000 children under the age of five had died of hunger in just the first four years of conflict.