Health expert warns of huge challenges for Yemen virus jab delivery

Health expert warns of huge challenges for Yemen virus jab delivery
The ongoing conflict and the destruction of infrastructure is expected to severely impact the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine.
2 min read
23 December, 2020
The conflict in Yemen has had a crippling affect on the healthcare system [Getty]
The devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen poses huge challenges for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to people in the country, a health expert has warned.

The war-torn nation is already the Arab world's poorest, with much of its infrastructure unable to function properly because of a conflict that started in 2014.

Wasim Bahja, Yemen director for the International Medical Corps, said the country's medical facilities were "hugely damaged" and many of its health workers had lost their lives.

"The most advanced countries are struggling with the management of the logistic supply chain when it comes to the rollout of the vaccine, and what about Yemen?" Bahja said.

More than 80% of more than 29 million Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including over 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding women who are acutely malnourished, according to the UN.

At least 20.5 million people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 53.2% of children have experienced stunted growth due to malnutrition, the International Rescue Committee has said.

The country is also plunging into a deteriorating economic crisis, with the local currency, rial, losing at least 25% of its value in 2020, leading to hikes in fuel and food prices.

And the pandemic has added to the misery, with UN agencies warning about a looming famine in 2021.

Yemen is part of the global collaboration initiative COVAX which aims to give nations equal access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and eventually vaccines. Yemen is hoping to receive up to 20% of the country's needs through donated vaccines.

"We do hope that with the COVAX facility initiative every country can be treated equally," Bahja said.

"Every human being around the globe can be treated equally and a Yemeni citizen can get the vaccine as soon as anyone else in the world would."

But further concerns have been raised about the eventual distribution of any vaccine with many homes, hospitals, bridges and other critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed by years of war.

Read more: Yemen in Focus: Could US terror designation be used to leverage Houthis?

The country is also split between an internationally recognised government centred in the south, and the Houthis who control the capital, Sanaa and the country's north.

Yemen has reported at least 2,080 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including at least 606 fatalities.

The numbers, however, are far from the truth, mainly because of heavily limited testing and that the Houthis have only announced four cases since the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

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