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Yemen: Aid agencies continue to scale up the response to COVID-19

12 Jun 2020


As part of the continuous support to confront COVID-19 in Yemen, the World Health Organization delivered 20 tons of supplies to Aden Governorate. Credit: WHO Yemen

Between 10 April, when the first case of the virus was confirmed in the country, and 11 June, authorities in Yemen announced 564 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 130 deaths.

These numbers are not representative of the true severity of the outbreak, as Yemen’s health system does not have adequate capacity to test all suspected cases. All indications point to the rapid spread of the virus across the country.

The case fatality rate (CFR) in observed cases is alarmingly high at around 24 per cent – that is about four times higher than the worldwide observed CFR. Reports indicate that many more people are symptomatic and are dying with COVID-19-like symptoms.

The health system is overwhelmed and collapsing. Health workers, who almost universally lack adequate protective personal equipment, are also falling sick. Most are also going unpaid.

Individuals with symptoms are often not receiving health care due to a lack of resources or the inability of local facilities to receive patients. Fear of stigma, concerns about safety, inability to access testing, and the perceived risks of seeking care may explain why people are not seeking treatment earlier.

These factors are also contributing to a major decrease in Yemenis seeking health care for any kind of medical issue. This means we could soon see significant increases in incidences of other diseases such as cholera.

Aid agencies in Yemen continue to do all they can to scale up the response to COVID-19. They are prioritizing suppression of virus transmission through community engagement and public information campaigns; procuring and distributing medical supplies and equipment; saving lives by supporting COVID-19 clinical readiness and response capacities; and safeguarding the public health-care system.

But agencies do not have the funding required to deliver at the scale needed, nor to continue existing programmes much longer. The UN is urgently calling on donors to fulfil all pledges immediately and to consider increasing support.


On 2 June, at the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, 31 international donors announced pledges of a combined US$1.35 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of people affected by the crisis. This is only about half of what was raised last year, despite the situation in Yemen being worse than ever.

Much of what was pledged at the event has not yet been disbursed.

Agencies will be forced to close key programmes unless more funds are provided. Already, incentive payments for health workers have had to be cut amidst a devastating pandemic. Further details on programme cuts will be available soon.

Information on donating to Yemen is available on the Crisis Relief platform.