US cuts healthcare aid to Yemen despite coronavirus fears

US cuts healthcare aid to Yemen despite virus worries, as America Covid-19 cases pass 100,000
3 min read
28 March, 2020
Donald Trump has slashed aid to Yemen despite a global coronavirus epidemic that has left healthcare systems around the world inundated with patients.
Yemen has coronavirus checks in place [Getty]

The US has halted some $70 million of aid for healthcare programs in Yemen, despite calls from NGOs and humanitarian groups, as well as members of Congress to delay the decision amidst fears the country is due a coronavirus outbreak.

Yemen has yet to report any coronavirus cases, however experts argue that poor healthcare infrastructures and an ongoing civil war means it is difficult to monitor the potential spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The Trump administration blamed the cuts in aid as a response to interference from Houthi rebels in the northern part of Yemen, who have been engaged in a civil war with the government for five years, and have imposed restrictions on organisations attempting to deliver aid.

This comes as US coronavirus cases exceed 100,000 and as the US healthcare system bends under pressure and Trump invites doctors and medical professionals to America.

An outbreak of coronavirus could pose a huge health risk in Yemen as millions starve and over 100,000 have already died due to the conflict in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

America slashing funds has meant that dozens of programs run by the United Nations, including one to supply Yemenis wit hand soap and medicine to health care workers, humanitarian officials told the New York Times.

Officials warned that conditions in the country, including starvation and refugee camps, could prove a dangerous breeding ground for the virus.

"This is the country that has already experienced the two biggest cholera outbreaks in recent history," said Scott Paul, head of humanitarian policy at Oxfam America.

"With the way things are now, to just take a wait-and-see attitude borders on reckless."

Officials with the United States Agency for International Development said the decision to halt funding, reported earlier by The Washington Post.

This included exceptions for "critical, lifesaving activities, including treatment of malnutrition as well as water, sanitation and hygiene programs aimed at keeping people healthy and staving off disease".

Democratic lawmakers echoed NGO worries, and penned a joint letter asking Trump to wait another month before halting funding.

"A suspension of assistance during a pandemic would risk the health response in a country in which 50 percent of its health care is offline due to fighting," the lawmakers wrote.

"Given the US is among the largest humanitarian donors to Yemen, abruptly ceasing aid would exacerbate an already tragic humanitarian crisis."

Read More: Yemen in Focus: Fifth war anniversary marks 'catastrophic abuses' on all sides

Nearly $70 million in assistance for the northern part of Yemen was cut, but officials insisted the south still received aid funding.

"We are extremely concerned that the Houthis have already caused millions of people to lose access to lifesaving humanitarian assistance and worsened the effects of Yemen's humanitarian crisis," a spokesman for the US Agency for International Development said.

"The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates now more than ever the need for our partners in Yemen to be able to deliver aid to those who need it most without interference or delay."

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