UN agency begins COVID vaccine rollout for 7,500 stranded migrants in Yemen 

15 December 2021

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for migrants stranded in Yemen. The goal is to inoculate around 7,500 people at its Migrant Response Points in Aden and Ma’rib.  

IOM’s Chief of Mission, Christa Rottensteiner, explained that “immunizing people on the move is key to combatting the spread of the disease.” 

An estimated 36,000 migrants have been stranded on their journeys due to mobility restrictions, nearly 3,500 in Ma’rib alone. Many are sleeping in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where the virus can easily spread.  

“Vaccinating against COVID-19 is even more crucial in places like Ma’rib where ongoing conflict continues to weaken health facilities and disrupt the supply chain for medicines,” Ms. Rottensteiner said.  

According to her, there are still not enough doses to protect everyone in Yemen from this disease. 

“More support from the international community to supply the country with enough vaccines will save lives”, she said.  

Pandemic 

So far, the pandemic has had severe consequences for the health, well-being and income of people in Yemen. COVID-19 has compounded the multiple crises already raging due to the on-going conflict which erupted in 2015, between rebel Houthi forces, together with their allies, and a Saudi-led coalition, that supports the internationally-recognized Government. 

As of 12 December, there have been more than 10,000 cases reported in the country, but it’s difficult to assess the real impact because of limited testing and reporting.   

Since April, IOM has been supporting efforts by the Ministry of Health to vaccinate at-risk and hard-to-reach populations. They have included health workers, people with chronic illnesses and elderly citizens.  

One Ethiopian migrant who received the vaccine in Aden, Naima Mohammed, told the agency he had one family member die from COVID-19 last year. 

Since then, he has come to the Migrant Response Point several times to get the facts about protection measures, such as handwashing and mask wearing. 

Now that I'm vaccinated, I'm more protected”, he said.   

Health crisis 

Nearly seven years of conflict in Yemen have weakened the health system, which was already in peril before the virus reached the country. 

The pandemic has had a dire impact on the most marginalized communities who lack access to health care, clean water and sanitation.  

For the past three months, IOM has been conducting awareness-raising sessions to spread accurate information and debunk vaccine misconceptions. Vaccinated migrants will receive documents to allow them easier access to health facilities.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, IOM has helped prevent the spread of the disease and provide treatment for those infected.  

So far this year, more than 135,000 people have been reached with awareness sessions and over 400,000 people have been screened for the virus at health facilities supported by IOM.  

The new vaccination campaign is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) with support from the governments of Germany, Finland and the EU Humanitarian Aid programme.  

80 per cent rely on aid 

Yemen’s civil war has generated the world’s worst humanitarian and development crisis and left parts of the country teetering on the brink of famine.  

The UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, has estimated 80 per cent of the population, or 24 million people, rely on aid and protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need.   

Following the outbreak of the conflict in 2015, the UN has repeatedly reiterated that there is no military solution to the Yemeni crisis and has called for a return to peaceful negotiation, through the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the country.  

 

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