DUBAI: The UK has called for drastic action to avoid “a humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen, which is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and a debilitating conflict.
The UK’s minister for the Middle East, James Cleverly, went on a virtual visit to Yemen through a series of video calls and expressed his concern at the rising number of coronavirus infections in Yemen amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Infections are predicted to have reached one million, according to research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which projects a worst-case scenario of up to 85,000 deaths.
Cleverly had a video call with health and aid workers to discuss the COVID-19 challenges they were facing.
“This (virtual) visit has allowed me to hear about the devastating impact coronavirus is already having in Yemen, and I was deeply concerned to hear that there have been over a million cases,” he said. “All parties to the conflict must work with the UN so there is safe access for food and medicine supplies.”
The minister, who had a virtual tour of a hospital and a camp for internally displaced people, also spoke to a midwife on how the coronavirus outbreak had affected her work.
“I am now a first-line responder spreading awareness to my community ... temporarily we need to stop kissing babies,” a midwife called Bushra said.
In Yemen scores of coronavirus cases have been recorded across the country, but the UN warns that the virus is spreading largely undetected. Hundreds of people in the country have died in the past weeks with symptoms of what appears to be coronavirus, local health officials said. Officials fear the situation is only going to get worse, as Yemen has little capacity to treat those suspected of having the virus.
Cleverly highlighted the need for further support to the UN, which fell $1 billion short of its target at the Saudi-hosted pledging conference earlier this month.
He also held talks with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths on the peace process, as well as with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadhrami and Houthi spokesman Mohammad Abdul Salam.
“Only a political solution can end the misery and prevent even more loss of life,” Cleverly added. “I urge Yemen’s leaders to redouble their efforts and agree to the UN’s proposals.”