Yemen gets aid amid UN funding cuts

ADEN: The last of three large shipments of medical supplies landed in Yemen on Friday, organizers of the cargo flights said, following a joint initiative by the world organization and multinational corporations to boost the war-devastated country’s health care system as it battles the coronavirus.

The shipments represent a different path to humanitarian relief in Yemen as the United Nations faces a drastic shortage of funds for its operations, even with the virus surging across the Arab world’s poorest country.

“It’s very important that we as a private sector help the public health authorities in their work on the ground,” said Mohamed Nabil Hayel Saeed, a spokesman for the initiative. “The world must not forget Yemen at this time while they’re fighting the virus.”

Friday’s batch followed two earlier shipments from the joint initiative, on Wednesday and Thursday, that each had more than 14 tons of items, including ventilators, coronavirus test kits and personal protective equipment.

A UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen this month fell $1 billion short of what aid agencies needed. Some 75 percent of UN programs for the country, covering essentially every sector, from food to health care and nutrition, have shut their doors or reduced operations.

The World Food Program had to cut rations in half and UN-funded health services were reduced in nearly 200 hospitals nationwide.

The Hayel Saeed Anam Foundation, the charity arm of the Yemeni-owned conglomerate by the same name which produces cooking oil and other foodstuffs, helped create the International Initiative on Covid-19 in Yemen.

The partnership brings together UN agencies with a host of companies, including Swiss food packaging giant Tetra Pak and Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Dove soap, among other products.

It’s an unusual effort to bring crisis-stricken Yemen back from the brink of further disaster, as the virus overwhelms Yemen’s hospitals.

The number of people dying from the coronavirus disease 2019 has dramatically spiked nationwide. Testing remains limited, with the country conducting just 31 tests per 1 million people, among the world’s lowest scores, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Friday’s air delivery is expected to increase Yemen’s ability to perform coronavirus tests by some 50,000 people per week.