UN agency calls for nearly $60mn to protect health, safety of Yemenis

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for nearly $60 million to urgently protect the health and safety of women and girls in Yemen, where figures show that every two hours one woman loses her life in labor.

In a statement on Wednesday, the UN agency said that more than 48,000 Yemeni women could lose their lives from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in the impoverished country due to critical funding shortages and the possible shutting down of reproductive health facilities.

It stressed that the dire humanitarian situation for Yemeni women would deteriorate as the COVID-19 pandemic has already entered the war-torn country.

In order to save more lives and protect the Yemeni women, the UNFPA said that it was calling for urgent funding of $59 million provide life-saving reproductive health care and women’s protection services until the end of the current year.

It further stressed that an additional $24 million was also needed for the COVID-19 response to protect health workers and help women and girls have access to reproductive health services in Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition comprised of a number of allies, the most significant of them being the UAE, invaded Yemen in March 2015 to restore power to its former regime and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, whose fighters have been of significant help to the Yemeni army in defending the country against the invaders.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the entire country close to the brink of famine.

The ongoing war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

According to UNFPA, nearly half of all health facilities in Yemen are not functioning or only partially functioning, and “only 20 percent of health facilities provide maternal and child health services due to staff shortages, lack of supplies, inability to meet operational costs, or damage due to the conflict.”

Moreover, equipment and medical supplies are insufficient or obsolete, the UN agency said, adding that health workers have not been paid, or have only been irregularly paid, in more than two years.

It also warned that if the global pandemic was prolonged, the number of women without having access to family planning, and those facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices could significantly soar by millions of cases in the next couple of months.

The UN agency further warned that a serious funding shortage would force UNFPA to stop the flow of providing life-saving reproductive health services in about 140 health facilities in the impoverished country.

If such facilities shut down, an estimated 320,000 pregnant women would lose services from reproductive health centers and over 48,000 women could lose their lives of emergency obstetric complications in Yemen, it further warned.

Separately on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the COVID-19 contagious disease was going to be widespread in war-ravaged Yemen and affected a large number of people there.

Figures from health ministry of Yemen show that as of Thursday, 25 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and five others have died of the disease.

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