The war in Yemen has already put the poorest Arab nation on the brink of collapse, and now the Covid-19 pandemic is making the crisis worse. As of early June, the country has 320 confirmed cases, with 80 deaths. But with the lack of medical infrastructure, the real total number of cases is unknown.
“In Yemen, we have virtually no possibility to carry out testing. We have no idea how high the number of infections really is,” Yemeni journalist Amar Mansoor told DW News. Reports coming out of the port city of Aden say dozens of people are dying of the virus every day. According to government statistics, 80 people died per day in Aden in mid-May, compared with 10 per day, the rate before the outbreak.
Aid workers believe Yemenis are susceptible to developing strong Covid-19 symptoms due to malnourishment. The UN predicts soon over 17 million Yemenis will be “dealing with acute food insecurity,” which is more than half of the country’s 28 million population. Yemen is also gripped by a cholera epidemic that is exacerbated by the country’s rainy season, which starts in the spring and lasts through the summer.
Clean water is key to treating cholera and preventing Covid-19, something most Yemenis do not have access to. According to the UN, nearly 18 million people in Yemen do not have access to clean water.
In the midst of the pandemic, the UN has made major cuts to aid in Yemen. About 75 percent of UN programs in the country have ended or reduced operations. The World Food Programme has also halved its food rations going into the country. Of course, the US-backed Saudi led war against the Houthis in Yemen has also exacerbated, if not caused, the crisis. It is a war President Trump is committed to supporting, the administration just announced plans to sell $500 million in weapons to Saudi Arabia.