The country’s healthcare system has been destroyed by over five years of civil war. Its ongoing battle with cholera and dengue outbreaks leaves it especially vulnerable to the pandemic.
“It is a serious concern for UNICEF,” says Harriet, UNICEF’s Communications Specialist in Yemen.
“The salaries of many healthcare workers haven’t been paid in years, supplies are scarce, and staff are dealing with layers of health issues for children - from malnutrition to not being vaccinated to ongoing insecurity.
“The additional threat of COVID-19 brings a new dimension of challenges in delivering vital aid,” she says.
"The additional threat of COVID-19 brings a new dimension of challenges in delivering vital aid."
Yemen’s healthcare system is already on the brink of collapse leaving little capacity to respond to a pandemic. UNICEF and partners have tried to keep the health system functioning but still, only 51 per cent of health facilities are operational.
Over the past few years, UNICEF has run mobile health teams in a bid to fill the gap and provide communities who are unable to access facilities with vital healthcare.
But a growing outbreak of coronavirus could put those efforts at risk, with health workers likely to be diverted back into health facilities, leaving children and their families in vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities without any access to healthcare.
“I think, like everywhere, the community is anxious about COVID-19. Fears are echoed by health workers who already have so much to grapple with,” Harriet says.
UNICEF has undertaken a range of prevention activities including working with a wide network of community mobilisers to spread health information and messaging through radio and television ads, peer educators and religious leaders.
We are also bringing in supplies, personal protective gear for health workers and soap for the community.
Harriet says now, more than ever, UNICEF’s work is vital in ensuring every child is protected.
“As attention shifts from what is already too often a forgotten conflict in Yemen to this global pandemic, the fact that UNICEF is staying and delivering offers some solace and hope for communities across the country who have already had to deal with so much,” she says.
Even without the coronavirus pandemic and despite progress towards peace, more than 12 million children need humanitarian aid.
“That means that almost every child in Yemen needs some form of assistance,” Harriet says.
“That is staggering and will be only compounded if COVID-19 spreads.”
"For millions of children in this country, our work is the difference between life and death."
Despite the ongoing violence, the challenges brought on by difficult terrain and access, as well as the added layer of complexity brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF continues to provide vital humanitarian assistance to children in need.
“We continue to support treatment and prevention messaging for diarrhoea, cholera and dengue, and in February alone, vaccinated almost 57,000 children against whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and diphtheria”
UNICEF is also supplying safe drinking water to major cities and rural areas as well as emergency latrines, hygiene kits and promoting good hygiene practices to tens of thousands of internally displaced people.
“We know there are so many other challenges that children face in the country,” Harriet says.
"The aim is to continue to deliver the humanitarian assistance that keeps them alive. For millions of children in this country, our work is the difference between life and death.”
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
27 Sept 2022
Can you imagine bringing your own water to hospital to give birth?
Find out how health care workers are providing safe and sustainable births in Timor-Leste.
27 Sept 2022
“I refused to give up.”
Meet Joanna, a passionate Child Protection officer, advocating for child-focused systems in Timor-Leste.
20 Sept 2022
Leading the way in Tennant Creek
These Aboriginal educators are inspiring the next generation of First Nations children
18 Sept 2022
“We did not have hope that he would survive.”
Munaf suffered from a rare, deadly condition associated with COVID-19. This is how he recovered.
7 Sept 2022
Social media for social good
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Emily Unity shares their thoughts around social media.
7 Sept 2022
Redefining how we support new mothers in Laos
A little cash goes a long way to save lives.
7 Sept 2022
Arlo Parks, a voice for the next generation
The award-winning UK musician met UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors for a chat about mental health and making an impact.
30 Aug 2022
Floods devastate one third of Pakistan
Children and families have lost their homes as flood waters wreak havoc. Here’s how UNICEF is responding.
12 Aug 2022
The Wiggles sing 'Wash your hands'
The Wiggles and UNICEF Australia release a ‘Handwashing Song’ and video to help children stay healthy
12 Aug 2022
Making handwashing fun for children in Cambodia
Every child has a right to clean, safe water in schools.
5 Aug 2022
The disease we can’t forget about
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed healthcare systems to the brink. It also created a perfect storm for other disease outbreaks.
21 July 2022
Hygiene and health go hand in hand
Ms. Nang, 25, is a teacher at a primary school in the Savannakhet province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Every morning, the rhythmic beat of a drum is the first sound that greets you in her classroom as she performs a roll call of her students using the class’s miniature-sized drum.