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Experts fear Yemen could suffer one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks

June 4, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis face what experts fear could be one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks, raising concerns of a staggering death toll after the United Nations began cutting aid to the war-torn nation.

(CNN)Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis face what experts fear could be one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks, raising concerns of a staggering death toll after the United Nations began cutting aid to the war-torn nation.

"In the countdown to closure there will have to be much wider cuts to Yemen at a time when the country is now facing the growing impact of the virus pandemic on people who are already badly malnourished and ill equipped to cope with it," Lise Grande, the head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told CNN, in a phone call from Sana'a on Wednesday, the capital of the divided nation.

"The worst-case scenario -- which is the one we're facing now -- means that the death toll from the virus could exceed the combined toll of war, disease and hunger over the last five years [in Yemen]," Grande told CNN.

Four out of five Yemenis need "lifesaving aid," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the conference on Tuesday, adding that Yemen faced one of the highest death tolls in the world from Covid-19.

This week health services for women giving birth in 150 hospitals supported by the UN were closed in the first wave of the cuts after the funding conference.

Yemen's five-year civil war has pitted Houthi rebels against the internationally recognized government, which has been backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year the Emiratis pulled their military out of the conflict but continues to back the government, which is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Much of the shortfall in new funding is being blamed on the apparent failure of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to come forward with a combined pledge which, in previous years, has been for about $1. 5 billion.

This year the UAE and Kuwait did not offer any funds to the UN effort and Saudi Arabia offered $500 million of which $300 million was to be earmarked specifically for the UN.

Some diplomats believe that the cut in funding to the UN by Gulf countries may be, in part, an attempt to force the Houthis to peace talks.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they want to continue to help Yemen with aid -- but insist it should not be diverted to the Houthi war effort.

"The UAE has spared no effort in providing medical assistance to support countries affected by Covid-19 by cooperating with international organizations, wherein UAE assistance amounted to $135 million from the beginning of March until the end of May," Reem al Hashimy, the Emirati minister for international cooperation said in a statement to CNN.

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