Yemen, already pushed to the brink of famine by a five-year war, could see a “catastrophic” food security situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lower remittances from the Gulf, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said yesterday.
The conflict between a Saudi Arabian-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement has caused what the UN describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
About 80 percent of Yemen’s population are reliant on aid and millions face hunger.
“The health system was already under heavy stress and will now be overwhelmed if COVID-19 continues to spread and in addition it will affect the movement of people and the movement of goods,” FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa Abdessalam Ould Ahmed said.
“That situation could be really catastrophic if all the elements of worst case scenarios come to be, but let’s hope not and the UN are working on avoiding that,” he said.
Yemen, alongside Syria and Sudan, is one of the most vulnerable states in the Middle East in terms of food security.
Lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus are likely to impact humanitarian supply chains keeping a large part of the population fed, the UN agency said in a report yesterday.
Yemen has been mired in violence since the coalition intervened in 2015 against the Houthi group that ousted the Saudi-backed government in Sana’a, forcing it to rebase in the south.
The internationally recognized government has reported 128 infections, with 20 deaths in areas under its control. The Houthis, who control most large urban centers, have announced four cases with one death, both in Sana’a.
The WHO on Monday last week said the virus circulating undetected in Yemen, increasing the likelihood of a devastating outbreak among a malnourished population that would overwhelm a shattered health system with limited testing capacity.
There are 15.9 million Yemenis classified as food insecure out of a population of about 28 million.
The FAO does not currently have an estimate as to how much bigger that number could get if the disease continues to spread, but it continues to monitor the situation.
The US on May 6 said it would provide US$225 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) for Yemen, including for reduced operations in the north.
The WFP had said it would halve aid in Houthi-held areas from the middle of last month over donor concerns that the group is hindering aid deliveries, a charge it denies.
The FAO said that Yemen, the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation, would also be hit by an expected decline in remittances from Yemenis in Gulf countries, which amounted to US$3.8 billion last year.
“This is a significant source of income for the country that may be considerably reduced,” Ould Ahmed said.
Many foreign workers in the energy-producing region have lost jobs, been put on unpaid leave or had salaries cut due to the coronavirus and low oil prices.
“Without peace we will continue to struggle with food insecurity and there will be no long term recovery,” the FAO said.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data