Dozens of U.N. programs that assist millions of impoverished Yemenis could be shut down by the end of the month largely because of major cuts in U.S. aid, humanitarian officials warn, just as the country has seen its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.
The warnings come after the Trump administration canceled tens of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid last month after accusing Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are aligned with Iran, of diverting and disrupting the aid. President Trump then followed that up by withdrawing funding for the World Health Organization, which plays an outsize role in Yemen.
Critics say the U.S. funding cuts are politically motivated and reflect American animosity toward Iran. International aid groups are now urging the administration to restore the funding for Yemen. They argue that the United States has a moral responsibility to help the country because U.S.-supplied fighter jets, bombs and other weapons have been used by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen to destroy scores of hospitals, clinics and other civilian facilities.
After more than five years of war, Yemen has earned the label of the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis with about 80 percent of the population now relying on aid. The war has shattered the health infrastructure. The immune systems of millions of Yemenis have been weakened by widespread hunger and malnutrition, as well as diseases such as cholera, dengue and diphtheria.
“Epidemiologists warn that covid-19 in Yemen could spread faster, more widely and with deadlier consequences than in many other countries,” Mark Lowcock, the United Nations’ top official for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, told the Security Council. “We are, in other words, running out of time.”
[The Washington Post]