A serious cash shortage threatens to force the closure of vital water and sanitation programs in Yemen next month, said Marixie Mercado a spokeswoman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a Press conference.
“The most immediate and critical funding gap is for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene operations, including the response to COVID-19,” Mercado said.
Unicef urged donors to contribute $ 479 million in funds to maintain COVID-19 basic programs and services for around four million Yemenis, half of them children, but that appeal is only funding 38%, Mercado said.
“Unless Unicef receives $ 30 million by the end of June, water, sanitation and hygiene services for these four million people will begin to close in July,” she estimated.
The spokeswoman said that UNICEF could not provide fuel to operate water pumping stations, sludge drainage, or maintain ruined water and sanitation infrastructure.
“It means that we will not be able to distribute basic family hygiene kits that include soap, which is so critical to preventing cholera and COVID-19 in a context where millions do not have access to hand-washing facilities,” she said.
She added: “To keep WASH services running until the end of the year, UNICEF requires $ 110 million. This level of funding will allow us to reach an additional 2.8 million people that we project will require assistance by then.”
Mercado said the lack of funding was also threatening Unicef’s COVID-19 response programs in the country.
“UNICEF’s COVID-19 response in Yemen is also severely underfunded. As of today, only 10% of the required $ 53 million had been received,” she added, “Since the start of the outbreak, UNICEF has sent more than 33,000 respirators N95, 33,000 face masks and 18,000 gowns, crucial personal protective equipment needed by front-line workers. But this represents only 5% of COVID supplies that Unicef requires.”
Without an additional $ 48 million, UNICEF will not be able to provide protective equipment to 25,000 health professionals and other front-line workers, she said.
The UN refers to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis as the worst in the world, with 24 million people in need of help and protection.
The country’s already depleted health system has come under increased pressure as it fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations said that approximately 20% of patients infected with the virus are dying, compared to the world average of 7%.