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Health organisations warn millions in Yemen lack access to clean water, soap in fight against COVID-19

March 25, 2020 at 12:30 pm

A malnourished infant receives treatment at Sabeen hospital in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 7 October 2019 [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency]

A number of health organisations working in Yemen have warned that millions in the war-torn country do not have access to clean water or soap risking their lives in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Caroline Siegen, director of Doctors Without Borders in Yemen, Iraq and Jordan told AFP that millions of Yemenis do not have access to clean water while others do not even have access to soap.

She explained that health organisations including WHO recommend frequent hand washing as a preventive measure to protect against the coronavirus. “However; what if they do not have clean water?” she asked.

READ: Socotra activists in Yemen say Emirates flights continue despite pandemic

The United Nations child agency, UNICEF, estimates that 18 million people, including 9.2 million children in Yemen, do not have direct access to “safe water, sanitation and hygiene.”

UNICEF Yemen’s chief of communications, Bismarck Swangin, told AFP that years of underinvestment in water and sanitation systems and the ongoing conflict have severely impacted people’s access to drinking water.

According to Swangin only one third of Yemen’s 27 million people are connected to water pipeline networks.

The World Health Organisation in Yemen told AFP: “We cannot overwhelm the already fragile health system in Yemen,” adding that the “introduction of the disease in Yemen will overrun hospitals and health facilities.”

READ: Save the Children says war in Yemen leaves most children depressed  

In 2017, Yemen suffered the largest cholera outbreak in the world which killed more than 2,000 people.

The war, which has entered its sixth year in Yemen, has led to the collapse of the health sector, and displaced more than 3.3 million people from their homes into refugee camps where access to clean water and sanitation is scarce.