Yemen, six years of war

Yemen, six years of war

Yemen at tipping point: Increasing Covid cases amid renewed fighting and famine fears – Oxfam

  • Yemen’s aid programme remains more than 50 percent underfunded

24 March 2021

Evidence is mounting that a second wave of Covid-19 is already underway in Yemen, Oxfam warned today, with a 22-fold increase in recorded cases in recent weeks. It comes at a time of renewed fears that hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to flee to safety amid intense fighting in Marib governorate.

After six years of war, the UN has warned again that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has witnessed for decades.

In addition, the arrival of the rainy season - due in May - is expected to bring an increasing threat of cholera outbreaks, which combined with Covid will overwhelm a health system battered by years of war and economic collapse. Despite this huge level of need, Yemen’s aid programme remains more than 50 percent underfunded.

Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said: “Yemen is at a tipping point – millions of people are already teetering at the edge of a precipice, now Covid, cholera and an intensification of the conflict threatens to push them over.

“With little testing, we can’t quantify the true scale of the problem, but we do know that Covid is accelerating fast. I’m hearing daily of fresh tragedies – people who have died of Covid-like symptoms without receiving medical attention.”

The escalation in hostilities around Marib, where a number of Covid cases have been reported recently, is one of a number of worrying developments as the war in Yemen enters its seventh year.  Renewed fighting around Taiz, Hajjah, Hudaydah and Aldhale’e which have seen multiple airstrikes and renewed tensions in Aden and have brought fresh misery to those cities.

Since February, more than 11,000 people in Marib have been displaced, with some entire camps forced to evacuate. Many have been displaced four or five times now as the frontlines of Yemen’s war continue to shift.

Siddiquey continued: “People in Marib are desperate, they face a stark choice between staying put and risking their families lives or fleeing into the desert where there is no water or food.

“I’m hearing terrible reports of children being killed, houses in residential districts being hit and people being forced to flee.”  

Oxfam said it was concerned that by forcing people to flee, the recent surge in fighting will speed the spread of the virus around the country.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: "Official figures on Covid in Yemen show a mortality rate of nearly 22 percent - one of the highest in the world. But with little testing and widespread reports of illness and deaths, the actual death toll is undoubtedly far higher. Yemen’s health system is estimated to be operating at half of its pre-war capacity despite the increasing needs.

"The people of Yemen are also facing the looming threat of cholera, while the UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, warned last week that the country is 'speeding towards a massive famine'.

"Earlier this month the UN held a donor pledging conference asking for $3.85 billion but received less than $1.7 billion - despite IPC projections that over 2.25 million Yemeni children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition this year alone. We, the international community, must do everything in our power to support the people of Yemen now, before further lives are needlessly lost.

Siddiquey, concluded: ““Even people who escape the missiles and bullets face a daily struggle to survive in the face of disease and destitution. Yemenis have suffered for six long years – it is time for the world to say, enough.

“This is a man-made conflict and these deaths are avoidable. With efforts from the UN Envoy and a recommitment to peace from the new US administration, the international community must seize this moment to collectively pressure all sides to end the suffering. Peace is possible if governments put lives ahead of politics.”



Caroline Reid | Communications Manager |

Notes for editors


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