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Yemen receives tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits to deal with outbreak

A Yemeni man receives relief items from the World Food Programme in Sanaa [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 22 April, 2020

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Yemen's health system, which has all but collapsed since the conflict broke out in 2014, is feared by many to be ill equipped to handle the coronavirus crisis.
Yemen will receive tens of thousands of coronavirus testing kits and medical equipment from a group of multinational companies to bolster its fight against coronavirus.

The country's health system, which has all but collapsed since the conflict broke out in 2014, is feared by many to be ill-equipped to handle the coronavirus crisis.

The International Initiative on Covid-19 in Yemen (IICY) is spearheading the initiative. IICY said that its first 34-tonne shipment would reach the war-torn country next week, Reuters reported.

The shipment will include 49,000 virus collection kits, 20,000 rapid test kits, and five centrifuges, as well as equipment to enable 85,000 coronavirus tests and 24,000 Covid-19 nucleic acid test kits, Reuters reported.

IICY, which is part of the charity arm of multinational conglomerate Hayel Saeed Anam, Tetra Pak, Unilever, the World Bank-backed Yemen Private Sector Cluster, and the Federation of Yemen Chambers of Commerce and Industry, will work with the United Nations to distribute the equipment.

More than 200 ventilators and half a million masks will also be delivered.

Yemen announced its first and only confirmed case of the Covid-19 respiratory disease earlier this month. The country has had a testing capacity of only a few thousand up to this point.

"Yemen's healthcare infrastructure will not be able to cope with the pressure placed on the system by Covid-19. We all fear that the result will be a major loss of life," said IICY Chairman Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam in comments quoted by Reuters

Meanwhile, Yemen's war shows no signs of abating, almost two weeks after the Saudi-led military coalition declared a unilateral truce due to the coronavirus threat looming over the impoverished nation.

The coalition supporting the government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels said the fortnight-long ceasefire was designed to head off the pandemic, in a move welcomed by the United Nations but dismissed by the insurgents as political manoeuvering. 

Despite Saudi Arabia's announcement of a halt in military activities from 9 April, fighting on the ground and coalition air strikes continue.  

The ceasefire announcement comes at a sensitive time for Saudi Arabia, which is reeling from plunging oil prices and grappling with a serious coronavirus outbreak of its own.

It has for some months indicated it is seeking to extricate itself from the costly conflict that has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni people and triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Read also: Yemen in Focus: Escalating violence undermines ceasefire efforts

Experts say that pressure on the Saudis to reduce civilian casualties in air strikes, a drawdown by their coalition partner the UAE in mid-2019, together with rifts within the government camp, have weakened the coalition and strengthened the rebels' resolve.

An estimated 24 million Yemenis - more than 80 percent of the population - depend on some form of humanitarian or protection assistance for survival, according to the UN.

More than 3 million are displaced, many in camps that are especially vulnerable to disease.


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