Airstrikes and fighting are increasing in Yemen amidst announced ceasefire, disrupting efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in a country already facing severe hunger and the oncoming cholera season. Recent flooding across Yemen is disrupting aid operations to reach those most in need, and a claim to self rule announced by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) last weekend threatens further fighting in the south at a time when the country is trying to stop the pandemic. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Yemen and continues to reach the most vulnerable with life-saving aid. All warring parties must commit to a nationwide ceasefire and allow aid agencies to do their work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, prevent another cholera outbreak, and treat malnourished children.
Tamuna Sabadze, Yemen Country Director at the IRC, said,
“With an increase in fighting and COVID-19 hitting the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, Yemen is on the brink of catastrophe. A ceasefire means an end to fighting, yet, we are seeing the opposite on the ground. An increase in airstrikes in Yemen is putting COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the overall humanitarian response at serious risk. Last week fighting between the Saudi-led Coalition and the Houthis increased by 30 percent and a number of air strikes civilian sites. (1) Now, the STC’s claim to self rule in the south could lead to even more instability, distracting warring parties from a coordinated and effective mitigation and response effort.;
“A recent IRC report detailed the alarming devastation COVID-19 may have on fragile states like Yemen if we don’t act now. There is still time to intervene and launch a comprehensive response to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. But, their suffering will not end until the war ends. International actors like the US, UK and France, who have influence over the warring parties, must push those responsible for the escalation in fighting to commit to a nationwide ceasefire and return to political negotiations to end the war. All parties must work with humanitarian agencies to remove impediments to the delivery of aid and ensure assistance reaches those most in need. ”