Many healthcare practitioners in high-income countries wonder what the long-term effect of COVID-19 will be.1 This pandemic is likely to have more severe impacts in low-income settings around the world. In Yemen, COVID-19 poses an additional challenge for people whose mental and physical health and access to healthcare had previously been severely hampered (https://www.iai.it/sites/default/files/iaicom2074 .pdf). Based on epidemiological projections, the United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator expressed concerns in April 2020 that COVID-19 could affect up to 16 million (55%) Yemenis (https: // www. csis.org/node/56416). As of March 17, 2021, the total number of reported positive COVID-19 cases was “only” 2,973 (https://covid19.who.int/region/emro/country/ye). However, the real impact of the pandemic is impossible to measure due to the lack of testing, political transparency and a coordinated response. The Ministry of Public Health and Population has set up pre-triage in the main health establishments and certain international organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have set up COVID-19 treatment centers across the country. But many in the population are unaware of the disease or think it does not exist in Yemen, hampering prevention. Hardly anyone in Yemen wears a face mask, and restaurants, shops and markets that closed after the first case was reported in April 2020 have soon reopened.
Unfortunately, this is only one aspect of a very complex situation. Since the start of the Yemeni civil war in 2014, the majority of health facilities have closed or ceased operation.2 Against the background of generalized cholera, diphtheria and dengue (including in children), COVID-19 barely registers (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/nov/27/yemen -disease-covid- war). Early in the conflict, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights drew attention to the plight of the 3 million people living with disabilities in Yemen (https://www.ohchr.org/ EN / newyork / Stories /Pages/ymendeathtollnears650.aspx). Due to the lack of adequate transportation, some people with disabilities and their families were unable to flee to safe areas. More than 300 organizations providing specialized care for people with disabilities have ceased their activities, resulting in the cessation of regular treatment for many people with disabilities.
As the health system continued to collapse, people with disabilities had less access to health care. To address this lack of access, the ICRC is supporting five physical rehabilitation centers across the country, all of which continued to serve the population throughout the conflict and pandemic. The number of beneficiaries they serve has grown over the years. However, these five physical rehabilitation centers are not enough to ensure the mobility management of all people with disabilities in Yemen. In addition to stopping their treatment, people with disabilities have the greatest difficulty in obtaining sustainable income due to the lack of professional integration policies. As securing food supplies has become a growing concern for the Yemeni population over the years, famine could ultimately have a much bigger impact than COVID-19 in Yemen.