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COVID-19: Impact on Yemen: Risk report – 23 March 2020

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COVID-19 poses a uniquely high risk for Yemen. COVID-19 is yet to be confirmed in Yemen, however, the likelihood of its spread is high as cases in surrounding countries continue to grow: 392 in Saudi Arabia, 470 in Qatar and 306 in Bahrain.

The country’s infrastructure has been devastated by five years of conflict, leaving little capacity to respond. Only 51% of health centres are fully functional. There is limited medicine, equipment and personal protection equipment available and only two testing sites (Sana’a and Aden).

Current conflict escalation, displacement and overcrowding make it difficult to implement protection measures (social spacing, hand washing). Over 3.6 million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict. One third live in camps and informal settlements which are overcrowded and lack proper access to sanitation.

Poor media and lack of trust in public institutions makes it challenging to deliver behaviour change messaging. Yemen ranks 168 of 180 on the 2019 World Press Freedom index.

Yemen relies on imports for 80 to 90% of its basic needs, making it particularly vulnerable to disruptions in the world economy.

COVID 19 risks are pulling scarce resources from other lifesaving health responses including cholera and dengue.

The crisis could also provide a guise for parties to the Yemeni conflict to impose new measures of control on humanitarian action and vulnerable, marginalized groups, such as access restrictions for fleeing populations and assessing remote project sites.

About this report

ACAPS held a joint analysis session on 10 March 2020 with 21 participants from 12 organisations to map key risks that may impact the humanitarian situation of Yemenis for the coming six months. This report is based on the feedback and results of the workshop, publicly available data and reports, and key informant interviews with Yemeni experts.

This report is a part of a series of products produced by ACAPS and partners to understand how the pandemic affects vulnerable populations globally. We know that rapid changes to the environment and context can bring about similarly rapid changes in social dynamics. This can exacerbate underlying tensions and pre-existing vulnerabilities. We also know that measures used to limit disease outbreaks can impact protection; freedom of movement and access to key services. Politics, social dynamics, trust and information have an important influence on how mitigation measures are implemented and received by the populations concerned.