Statement from Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme at the Yemen High-level Pledging Conference

(Thank you Mark, Shukran Dr. Al Rabeeah)

I am speaking today on behalf of WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, and of Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, salam aleikum, 

As we all know, Yemen is the most complex humanitarian operation in the world.  

Indeed, when Dr Al-Mandhari  – who is also participating in this event – visited Yemen last year, he saw parents who were desperate to find help for their sick children; an elderly man die before his eyes as doctors tried to save him, and he met  the son of one doctor who died of cholera while treating patients with the disease. 

The situation has since become much worse. But in spite of it all, for the past five years, WHO and our partners have stood with the people of Yemen.

When the world’s largest cholera outbreak hit, we together reversed the cycle of disease, protecting more than 10 million people. When measles threatened, we together vaccinated over 12 million children. 

When severe acute malnutrition spread, WHO and our partner MED-COM supported 80% of all therapeutic feeding centers, saving 91% of all children suffering from medical complications. And as more people face death and disease, WHO and partners are supporting 70% of all medical consultations in the country.

And we did it all thanks to your generous support.

But today, COVID-19 has pushed Yemen over the edge, with many health workers on the front line frustrated and bereft. In fact, one physician in the Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a, recently said that he is “exhausted by war and politics, exhausted by rumors and ignorance, and exhausted by greed and poverty.”

And yet, in spite of enormous constraints, this physician and other courageous and committed individuals continue to serve their people every day.

And so will WHO and our partners.  We will continue to equip, upgrade and expand the number of isolation centers to 59 across the whole country. We will continue to establish and equip EOCs, train health care workers and rapid response teams moving from over 300 to over 900 response teams in the coming weeks. We will continue to educate communities, and expand testing, all the while ensuring the continuity of other essential health services.

Last week alone, through the COVID Supply Chain Platform WHO and WFP airlifted over 34,000 kilograms of medicines and medical supplies including over 6.5 tons of COVID-19 PPE and laboratory diagnostics to support the functional labs that we have supported for COVID diagnosis. This week we are preparing another round of over 7 tons of PPE and 18 tons of medicines to support Yemen.

And we will continue to do everything we can to serve the people of Yemen, even as COVID-19 rages. But we need a massive scale-up of our COVID and non-COVID health operations to assist some of the most vulnerable population in the world.  

We recognize in a world where everyone is trying to respond to their own health crisis it is a challenge to maintain critical support to others. But in this global crisis we must recognize that there are communities and people who are even more at risk and even more vulnerable.

We will be judged by how we serve those who have the least. We will be judged by how we ease the suffering of those who suffer most and we will be judged by how we help those who are helpless.

We need peace for health and if we have that peace, we can succeed with our partners to deliver health for peace.

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