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Geneva, May 22 . .- Yemen faces the spread of the new coronavirus with its health system collapsed by more than five years of war, with a shortage of oxygen and protective equipment for health personnel, who also do not charge their wages on regular basis.

“The health system is collapsed and aid organizations are working under the assumption that the virus is already widespread,” a spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Aid Office, Jens Laerke, confirmed today from Geneva.

Thirty humanitarian programs in areas vital to the Yemeni population could close shortly if no new international funding is received.

Currently, aid operations in Yemen have received few contributions, totaling $ 677 million so far this year, compared to the $ 4 billion that was required in 2019.

These resources cover the needs of 14 million people each month, to the point that the survival of many depends on that aid.

The level of spread of the coronavirus is difficult to establish with certainty in Yemen due to the serious deficiencies in the hospital system and the lack of diagnostic tests.

Official figures reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that there are 184 verified cases and 30 deaths.

However, in the southern city of Aden alone, where the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has the only hospital for covid-19 patients in that area of ​​the country, a total of 173 patients were hospitalized in the first 17 days of May and 68 died as a consequence of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“The situation is very critical and if the international community does not provide funding there will be programs to fight covid that will have to close,” said Laerke.

Yemen’s health care system has no capacity to cope with a wave of covid-19 infected.

Saudi Arabia is organizing a donor conference for Yemen on June 2 to raise the $ 2 billion needed to make ends meet by the end of the year with all vital aid programs running.

The choice of Saudi Arabia to host that meeting has caused controversy as it is the country that since 2015 has launched attacks against civil infrastructure and inhabited areas in the war that Yemen is carrying out against the Houthi rebels, who seized power in the capital and controlled a part of the territory.

Independent commissions of inquiry, some of them protected by the UN, have denounced Saudi Arabia for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen.

Spokesman Laerke justified the choice of the host country for the donor conference, considering that since 2018 it has been the largest donor to humanitarian operations in Yemen and that this money has not been conditional on specific uses.

The UN has thus been able to direct those resources to the most urgent areas for the civilian population and prevent a famine from erupting, a situation in which Yemen has been on the verge of falling several times in recent years.