Yemen aid lifeline nears breaking point as UN food agency appeals for $870 million
More than $870 million is needed to sustain lifesaving aid to war-torn Yemen over the next six months, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday, as UN humanitarians also warned that some projects were nearing “breaking point”.
The appeal comes after more than five years of fighting in the Arabian peninsula country, between the Government and the mainly Houthi-led opposition.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, four in five Yemenis need humanitarian assistance.
Here’s spokesperson Charlie Yaxley:
“We’re seeing a growing number of families resorting to harmful coping mechanisms, such as begging, child labour and marrying of children to survive. And we’re reaching a potential breaking point in our programmes.”
Yemen was already one of the poorest countries in the world before violence escalated in March 2015, and today millions of people lack access to sufficient food, fuel and medicine, almost all of which is imported.
WFP said that over 20 million Yemenis are food insecure, including nearly 10 million, who are acutely food insecure.
The agency has warned that coronavirus will likely push many more children in Yemen into acute malnutrition, with over two million youngsters already dangerously malnourished.
As of Monday evening, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported nearly 50 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Yemen.
But there are widespread concerns that the situation is much worse.
Governments must boost COVID-19 aid to vulnerable urban populations – UNHCR
Hundreds of thousands of refugees living in urban settings across the East, Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa are struggling to meet even basic needs as the economic impact of COVID-19 takes hold, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has said.
On Tuesday it appealed for more refugees be included in government-response plans to the pandemic, over and above the preventative health measures already taken.
UNHCR fears that without further support, many urban refugees could become extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
They risk falling into major debt and could be forced into transactional sex or child labour to survive, spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said:
“We do see different circumstances in different areas…in other places restrictions are looser, but across the board businesses and economies have been badly affected by this.”
In Rwanda, most of the country’s 12,000 urban refugees have seen the family wage earners lose their jobs, Mr. Yaxley said, as business have closed after border restrictions.
Indian heatwave highlights coronavirus risks to national health systems: WMO
To India finally, where a heatwave, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, has compounded the difficulty of keeping vulnerable people safe – and highlighted how critical it is to have emergency plans in place, UN weather watchers have said.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Churu in Rajasthan recorded 47.5 degrees Celsius on Monday, that’s almost 118 Fahrenheit.
Usually, the authorities would encourage people to leave dangerously hot homes for cooler air-conditioned public spaces.
Regular home visits would also be organised to check on vulnerable people at risk from heat-related illness and death.
But these measures might be impossible or go against public health recommendations to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, WMO’s Clare Nullis said.
Latest UN data shows that India has seen over 4,000 deaths from the new coronavirus.
To help, the WMO has teamed up with health and climate experts and published recommendations for decision-makers.
The Global Heat Health Information Network advice is available online from the WMO website; it features a technical brief on how to protect people from hot weather during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with questions and answers and planning checklists.
The development comes as the northern hemisphere braces for what is expected to be another record-breaking heat season.
Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures, WMO said.
In 2018, vulnerable people over the age of 65 experienced a record 220 million more heatwave exposures than between 1986 and 2005, the agency’s data shows.