Last batch of joint aid lands in Yemen amid United Nations funding cuts

YEMEN (AP) – The last of three large shipments of medical supplies landed in Yemen yesterday, organisers of the cargo flights said, following a joint initiative by the world organisation and multinational corporations to boost the war-devastated country’s health care system as it battles the coronavirus.

The shipments represent a different path to humanitarian relief in Yemen as the United Nations (UN) faces a drastic shortage of funds for its operations, even with the virus surging across the Arab world’s poorest country.

“It’s very important that we as a private sector help the public health authorities in their work on the ground,” said spokesman for the initiative Mohamed Nabil Hayel Saeed. “The world must not forget Yemen at this time while they’re fighting the virus.”

Yesterday’s batch followed two earlier shipments from the joint initiative, on Wednesday and on Thursday, that each had over 14 tonnes of items, including ventilators, coronavirus test kits and personal protective equipment.

A UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen this month fell USD1 billion short of what aid agencies needed. Some 75 per cent of UN programmes for the country, covering essentially every sector, from food to health care and nutrition, have shut their doors or reduced operations. The World Food Programme had to cut rations in half and UN-funded health services were reduced in nearly 200 hospitals nationwide.

Workers disinfect boxes of medical supplies at Sanaa International Airport. PHOTO: AP

The Hayel Saeed Anam Foundation, a Yemeni-owned conglomerate, helped create the International Initiative on COVID-19 in Yemen. The partnership brings together UN agencies with a host of companies, including Swiss food packaging giant Tetra Pak and Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Dove soap, among other products.

It’s an unusual effort to bring crisis-stricken Yemen back from the brink of further disaster, as the virus overwhelms Yemen’s hospitals.

The number of people dying from COVID-19 has dramatically spiked nationwide. Testing remains limited, with the country conducting just 31 tests per one million people, among the world’s lowest scores, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The air delivery is expected to increase Yemen’s ability to perform coronavirus tests by some 50,000 people per week.

Earlier this week, three airplanes loaded with a total of 43 tonnes of aid from China touched down in the capital, Sanaa and the southern city of Aden, for UN-led distribution to hospitals and labs. The 426 ventilators, one million pieces of protective equipment and 34,000 COVID-19 test kits aim to support a health system now functioning at 50 per cent capacity.