The International Rescue Committee said Wednesday fighting has escalated in Yemen, despite an announced peace agreement, disrupting efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Arab world’s most impoverished country.
The IRC warned Tuesday that up to 1 billion COVID-19 cases and 3.2 million deaths could occur in 34 countries that are at war or confronting crises, including Yemen.
The global humanitarian organization said airstrikes and fighting escalated recently in Yemen as the country grapples with severe hunger and the beginning of the cholera season.
Recent flooding has disrupted efforts by the IRC and other groups to provide aid to the country’s most vulnerable people and a declaration of self-rule last weekend by Yemen’s leading separatist group threatens more violence.
The IRC called on “all warring parties” to agree to a cease-fire to allow aid organizations to work toward containing the coronavirus, treat underfed children and help avert a cholera outbreak.
“With an increase in fighting and COVID-19 hitting the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, Yemen is on the brink of catastrophe,” said IRC Yemen Director Tamuna Sabadze. “A cease-fire 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.”
The United Nations said Tuesday that nearly $90 million is urgently needed in coming weeks to keep vital programs running and to provide aid to Yemeni’s and refugees most susceptible to COVID-19. The U.N. refugee agency also warned that nearly one-million displaced Yemeni’s risk losing shelter.
The Southern Transitional Council, Yemen’s leading separatist group, recently declared self-rule in the south, thwarting global efforts to end the war and contain the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
The declaration heightens the risk of renewed fighting between allies in a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Houthi rebel group aligned with Iran for the past five years.