Yemen braces for third COVID-19 wave amid vaccine shortage

Yemen braces for third COVID-19 wave amid vaccine shortage
It is hard to predict the pandemic’s trajectory in Yemen, say experts. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2021

Yemen braces for third COVID-19 wave amid vaccine shortage

Yemen braces for third COVID-19 wave amid vaccine shortage
  • Despite not ruling out the possibility of a third wave, Bin Ghouth said that Yemen is experiencing a post-second wave period due to the stable level of new cases and deaths

ALEXANDRIA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has put health facilities and workers on high alert and demanded that people follow COVID-19 restrictions as the country braces for a third wave of the virus.

“Our trained health workers are on the ground, ready to deal with the third wave as they did with previous waves,” Ishraq Al-Subaee, a spokesman for the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee, told Arab News on Wednesday, adding that the government is working on boosting the supply of oxygen and applying more health measures to mitigate the impact of the new wave.

Prompted by a sudden surge in the number of coronavirus cases in government-controlled areas, Yemen’s Health Minister Qasem Buhaibeh said on Twitter on Tuesday that the Yemeni government has ordered health workers to “get ready for a new wave” and to “prepare health facilities and quarantines for a possible influx of cases,” urging Yemenis to abide by health precautions.

“We call on citizens to be careful and take the necessary precautionary health measures, as we have field indicators of an increase in coronavirus cases,” Buhaibeh said.

The government’s coronavirus committee on Tuesday recorded 10 new infections in five Yemeni provinces and zero deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 7,022. There have been 1,374 deaths and 4,168 recoveries. On Monday, the committee announced the recording no new cases, one death and two recoveries.

Ishraq said that Yemen would receive in August thousands of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines as part of the international COVAX scheme, and that priority would be given to Yemenis who would receive their first shot.

Health experts argue that it is hard to predict the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, given the fact that two-thirds of the Yemeni population live in areas under the Houthis control, where officials conceal information about the pandemic and obstruct the distribution of vaccines.

“The epidemiological situation in Yemen is ambiguous,” Abdulla bin Ghouth, a professor of community medicine and epidemiology at Hadramout University’s College of Medicine, and an adviser to the health minister, told Arab News on Wednesday, adding that the country has a “weak surveillance and diagnosis process” and a “crumbling health system.”

Despite not ruling out the possibility of a third wave, Bin Ghouth said that Yemen is experiencing a post-second wave period due to the stable level of new cases and deaths. “Through my weekly follow-up to the epidemiological curve, there is a constant continuation of a low level of cases, not a sharp decrease or a double rise,” he said.

In April, Yemen kicked off vaccination campaigns in government-controlled areas, three weeks after receiving the first shipment of COVID-19 shots.

At the beginning of the campaign, the turnout was very poor, until Saudi Arabia and other countries said that they would only allow fully vaccinated people to enter into their countries.

Thousands of Yemenis showed up at vaccination centers, consuming the country’s stock of the vaccines within a short period.

Yemeni health officials said that almost 320,000 Yemenis were vaccinated during the first and second rounds of the jab rollout and about 72,000 people have already registered on the ministry’s news site to receive vaccines.

At the same time, thousands of Yemeni travelers who were left stuck at home due to a shortage of vaccines have demanded that the government swiftly administer new doses, complaining that many Yemenis have lost jobs since they could not get a vaccine on time.

Mohammed Abdul Kareem, a Yemeni expatriate in a Gulf country, said that he waited three months to receive a second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and that his visa would expire if he did not get it next month.

“As my visa expires soon, please tell us will the vaccines arrive at the beginning of August or in the middle,” Abdul Kareem said, commenting on the health minister’s post on Twitter.

Double-jabbed Yemenis also complained that they have not yet received electronic certificates proving their vaccination from the ministry. The health minister justified the delays in issuing the certificates, citing “huge pressure” from thousands of vaccinated people, and added that the ministry is “working on addressing the issue.”


Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’
Updated 6 sec ago

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’
  • Charity says 62 children died of various causes in northeastern Syria camp this year



BEIRUT: Two children die every week in Al-Hol, one of the overcrowded Syrian camps where families with suspected links to the Daesh group are stranded, Save the Children said on Thursday.
The charity said many countries, including EU states, were abandoning thousands of children in their desert limbo, vulnerable to violence, fires, malnutrition and illness.
Save the Children said a total of 40,000 children from 60 different countries were living in dire conditions in the camps of Roj and Al-Hol in northeastern Syria.
“Many of the world’s richest countries have failed to bring home the majority of their children stuck in” the two displacement camps, the group said in a statement.
It said 62 children had died of various causes so far this year, including violence, disease and accidents.
Save the Children said a total of 73 people, including two children, were murdered in Al-Hol alone so far this year.
The remote camps managed by the Kurdish forces that control the area were meant to house the families of men who had been detained over suspected ties to the Daesh group.
However, they also hold many families who simply fled Daesh occupation of their homes in Iraq and Syria. Some have been there for more than four years.
Save the Children interviewed several children trapped behind the fences of Al-Hol, where they live like prisoners and from which their governments are unwilling to repatriate them.
“I cannot endure this life anymore. We do nothing but wait,” said one 11-year-old Lebanese girl who was interviewed in May and was since reportedly killed during a failed escape attempt in a water truck.
The charity said France had 320 children held in both camps but had only repatriated 35. The United Kingdom has 60 and only brought four home.
“What we are seeing here is governments simply abandoning children, who are first and foremost victims of conflict,” said Sonia Khush, director of Save the Children’s Syria response.
She said 83 percent of repatriation operations so far had been to Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The Kurdish authorities running the area consistently said they did not have the capacity to organize trials for all the detained foreign suspects nor support their families.
France and other Western countries have been wary of the impact mass repatriations could have on domestic security and public opinion.


Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35
Updated 3 min 26 sec ago

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35
  • The rebels have accelerated their push to take Marib in recent months

SANAA: Flighting flared up this week between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in the country’s southern province of Shabwa, killing 35 from both sides, tribal leaders and security officials said on Thursday.
Clashes are now in their third day in several districts of the government-controlled province, including Bayhan and Usaylan, said the officials and the elders. Dozens have been wounded on both sides, they said.
In Shabwa, government forces regained control of areas that Houthis had captured earlier this week, the officials said.
The rebel offensive on Shabwa is believed to be aimed at disrupting a key line of communication through which pro-government reinforcements are sent to the central province of Marib, where fighting has been raging for several months.
The rebels have accelerated their push to take Marib in recent months, while escalating cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has launched dozens of airstrikes on towns in Marib — including Rahbah, Sirwah and Madghel — to back pro-government ground forces,
The head of the UN food agency has warned that 16 million people in Yemen “are marching toward starvation” and said food rations for millions in the war-torn nation will be cut in October unless new funding arrives.
David Beasley said at a meeting on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis that the US, Germany, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other donors stepped up when the World Food Programme was running out of money earlier this year and “because of that we averted famine and catastrophe.”
WFP is running out of money again, he said, and without new funding, ration reductions will be made for 3.2 million people in October and for 5 million by December. At a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland on March 1, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for $3.85 billion for Yemen this year. But donors pledged less than half the amount — $1.7 billion, which the UN chief called “disappointing.”
Yemen on Thursday received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the Health Ministry said.
A delivery of 356,000 shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Aden, the temporary capital of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Health Minister Qasem Buhaibeh said the vaccines will be distributed to people who had already received one AstraZeneca dose.
Yemen received 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca in March, followed by 151,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson in August.
The government’s emergency coronavirus committee has registered 8,830 coronavirus infections and 1,664 deaths so far although the true figure is thought to be much higher as the war has restricted COVID-19 testing and reporting.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement has provided no figures since a couple of cases in May 2020.
COVAX is co-led by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization and aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries.


Egyptian and Russian foreign ministers discuss strategic relations

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
Updated 23 September 2021

Egyptian and Russian foreign ministers discuss strategic relations

Sergey Lavrov and Sameh Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. (Twitter/@MFA_Russia)
  • Meeting was on sidelines of UN General Assembly session 
  • Countries have partnership and cooperation agreement 

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov discussed strategic relations between the two countries, as well as Syria, Libya, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Lavrov and Shoukry met on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. 

They discussed issues related to the further development of Russian-Egyptian relations, stressing the need to “maintain bilateral contacts, in which dialogue based on trust between the leaders of the two friendly countries plays an important role.”

Lavrov and Shoukry said the partnership and strategic cooperation agreement between Russia and Egypt, which entered into force in January, would ensure the strengthening of joint work in commercial, economic and humanitarian matters.

In an official post on Telegram, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Lavrov had invited Shoukry to visit Moscow.


Salih calls for respect for Iraqi sovereignty

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
Updated 23 September 2021

Salih calls for respect for Iraqi sovereignty

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R), and Barham Salih, President of the Republic of Iraq, meeting during the the 76th session of the UNGA. (AP)
  • President: Iraq, Iran should maintain ties based on mutual respect
  • Concerns raised over hardships caused by Iranian, Turkish dams

WASHINGTON D.C.: Iraqi President Barham Salih said his country should not be used as a proxy by its more powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey to settle regional conflicts.

Speaking at an event hosted on Wednesday by the Council on Foreign Relations, he added that Iran might be wary of Iraq’s reemergence as a regional power in the future, but that both countries should maintain ties based on mutual respect.

Iran maintains a powerful influence on Iraqi domestic politics through political parties and militias that receive political and financial support from Tehran.

Salih, who is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, said Iraq and Iran should treat each other as “sovereign states.”

He added that he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UNGA, and discussed bilateral relations and Ankara’s incursions into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish militants.

Salih said recent droughts and the loss of agricultural land, mainly due to dams built by Turkey and Iran that restrict the flow of water downstream to Iraq, are causing severe problems for his country.

Iraq depends for its agriculture on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow downstream to Syria and Iraq from Turkey.

An extensive Turkish dam system has restricted the flow of the rivers downstream, causing severe droughts in both Arab countries.

Similarly, Iranian dams have caused drought and economic hardship in Iraq, especially in the Kurdish region.

Salih said the situation will worsen as Iraq’s population of around 40 million is projected to double by 2050.

He stressed the need for Iraq to establish long-term economic planning to address an eventual drop in its oil sales — which represent the majority of its income — due to emerging technologies that do not depend on oil.

Salih discussed Iraq seeking stronger economic ties with Jordan and Egypt, including connecting the three countries with a common electrical grid and building an Iraqi oil pipeline that goes through Jordan.


Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief
Updated 23 September 2021

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will ‘pay price’ for Renaissance Dam: Arab League chief

Ethiopia will “pay the price” for constructing the Renaissance Dam, which has caused a crisis between Addis Ababa on the one hand, and Cairo and Khartoum on the other, said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

“It is a dam of ruin for two Arab countries (Egypt and Sudan),” he said, adding that the “tragic situation” facing the Arab world in recent times has given Turkey, Iran, Israel and Ethiopia an opportunity to interfere in the region’s affairs.

Aboul Gheit said his priority at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly is to focus on the Palestinian issue again, to which he “will demand a political solution.”