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UN chief calls for immediate Yemen ceasefire as country braces for possible coronavirus outbreak

A Yemeni soldier loyal to the Huthi rebels mans a machine gun turret [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2020

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The UN's secretary general has called for an end in fighting in Yemen as the World Health Organisation has warned the country could face an 'explosion' of COVID-19 cases

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called an end to fighting in Yemen and for Iran-backed and Saudi Arabia-backed militia to end hostilities as the World Health Organization warned of an impending explosion of coronavirus cases in the country.

“More than five years of conflict have devastated the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis,” the UN chief said in a statement, adding that an escalation of violence in the towns of Al Jawf and Ma’rib now threatens to deepened human suffering.

“A political solution is the only way to a comprehensive and sustainable resolution of the conflict in Yemen,” he added.
According to the UN Development Programme in Yemen, Auke Lootsma, Yemen has not reported any cases of Covid-19 as of 24 March.

"There are no confirmed cases in Yemen though there are thousands of potential rumours," WHO Yemen representative, Altaf Musani said on Tuesday.

However, the situation is being recognised as “the largest public health emergency of our time”.

Described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis by the United Nations, the war between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi and UAE-backed government has left millions on the edge of famine, and vulnerable.

With the coronavirus knocking on Yemen’s doorstep, the World Health Organisation has warned of a pending “explosion” of Covid-19 cases.


Last week Abd al-Nasser Abu Bakr, head of the department for combating infectious diseases at the WHO office in the Eastern Mediterranean, told CNN Arabic that he expected "an explosion in the number of coronavirus cases in Syria and Yemen."

Read More: Gulf states spend big to buffer coronavirus crisis

Health minister for the Houthis’ National Salvation Government, Taha al-Mutawakel, warned that 93 per cent of the country’s medical equipment is out of service because of Yemen's civil war between the Iran-affiliated Houthis and the UN-recognized, Saudi-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Thousands test negative for coronavirus

Thousands of Yemenis last week were tested for the deadly coronavirus, authorities confirmed, and all the results have come back negative as fighting in the war-torn country rages on.

Yemen’s health ministry assured it had provided tests for some 32,000 travellers entering through the Al-Wadeeah land port, which has now closed as part of safety measures to keep Covid-19 out of Yemen, according to figures reported by Almasdar Online.

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