Coronavirus: final batch of aid reaches Yemen as UN faces funding crisis

Private and public sectors join forces to provide tonnes of supplies to help Yemen fight disease

In this Wednesday, June 17, 2020, workers unload boxes of medical supplies on arrival at Sanaa International Airport in Sanaa, Yemen. The shipment includes ventilators, coronavirus test kits, PCR machines and personal protective equipment. Organized by the United Nations and private companies, it comes as the UN is facing a funding shortage for its operations in the war-torn country, where officials and medical experts fear the coronavirus could be spreading unchecked due to limited medical facilities. (World Health Organization via AP)

Yemen on Friday received the last shipment of medical supplies from a joint humanitarian effort to support the country’s shattered health system as it fights the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation along with multinational corporations completed the delivery at a time when the UN is faced with a funding crisis that is affecting its operations in the war-torn country.

“This donation comes at a critical time. It will have a massive and immediate impact on the ground, helping to fill the gaps in Yemen’s hospitals and laboratories countrywide,” said Auke Lootsma, acting UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Yemen.

"We stand on the brink of catastrophe and our best hope of responding is by working together."

Yemen’s first case of the virus was confirmed on April 10. The country has recorded 909 cases and 248 deaths since the outbreak began.

Many say the cases are under-reported and are increasing rapidly across the country.

“It’s very important that we as a private sector help the public health authorities in their work on the ground,” Mohamed Nabil Hayel Saeed, a spokesman for the initiative, said in a statement.

“The world must not forget Yemen at this time while they’re fighting the virus.”

The shipments were organised by the Hayel Saeed Anam Foundation on behalf of the International Initiative on Covid-19 in Yemen, a collaborative partnership of multinational companies and the United Nations.

The partnership brings together UN agencies and a host of companies, including Swiss food packaging giant Tetra Pak and Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s sauces and Dove soap, among other products, in an unusual effort to save Yemen from further disaster as the virus overwhelms its hospitals.

The initiative's two earlier shipments arrived on Wednesday and Thursday. Each comprised more than 14 tonnes of items such as ventilators, personal protective equipment and enough coronavirus testing kits to screen nearly 50,000 people per week.

Unicef, the UN children’s agency, said the first batch of 10,000 testing kits arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa late Thursday. A consignment of 8,000 tests is expected to reach Aden, temporary seat of the internationally recognised government,  in the coming days.

“These test kits will allow wider testing for Covid-19 across the country and the timely management of confirmed cases to save lives,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Unicef's Yemen representative.

“Unicef continues to bring critical supplies to Yemen to support the response efforts and protect children and their communities against the pandemic."

The agency has shipped more than 33,000 respirators, 33,000 face shields, and 18,000 gowns into the country.

“This crucial personal protective equipment will support 400 frontline health workers for three months, but only represents 5 per cent of the Covid-19 supplies that Unicef requires in Yemen,” the agency said.