Blockade, war, low levels of health spending and a relative scarcity of hospitals - many damaged by Saudi air strikes - are indicators that the poorest country in the Arab world cannot guarantee nationwide access to healthcare and risks being overwhelmed by the wave of the new coronavirus.
Even in well-organised and robust health systems in the West the challenges posed by a pandemic are being felt swiftly, and this is even more true in weak ones like those in Yemen, Syria, Gaza, Libya and Afghanistan. In epidemiology, all these countries trail behind an epidemic, and they are going to suffer havoc.
Of the millions of displaced people in Yemen, many do not have regular access to health services, mainly due to geographic or conflict issues. This is in line with the proportion of people already living in poverty and famine elsewhere.
The most industrialised countries spend eight percent of GDP on health, between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars per inhabitant per year, compared to just about few dollars per person in Yemen.
Another indicator is the number of beds available in remaining hospitals, which does not measure the quality of infrastructure, staffing or efficiency in these facilities. A portion, sometimes very small, are intensive care beds. But it is not enough to equip hospitals and health centres to combat the virus.
They must properly combine human resources, infrastructure and equipment, medicines and other health technologies, to provide quality care. And this yet to be the case because of the war and the illegal US-backed, Saudi-led blockade.
If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in the region, Yemen is the nations most at risk.This is to say that Yemen is not prepared to face the coronavirus epidemic, not just because of a lack of resources, but due to the ongoing war and blockade that have led to the high level of poor health conditions in terms of access to services, poor management and lack of equity.
Make no mistake. This is not an attempt to fear-mongering. Studies by international aid agencies and non-governmental organisations warn that the health care system in Yemen is on the verge of collapse and that the country is experiencing a complex humanitarian emergency. The only way to save millions of lives would be for the US and Saudi Arabia to end their illegal war and inhumane blockade in order to let medical supplies into Yemen.
The war-ravaged country is at the bottom of the regional charts in terms of health spending and the provision of hospital beds. The pandemic will only create more setbacks in health-care and disinfection campaigns and containment of the disease.
The man-made health crisis is part of the general collapse of basic services that has accompanied the economic collapse over the past five years or so, uprooting millions of people. Among those who have left their devastated communities are many nurses and doctors. The American and Saudi regimes should heed the call of international civil society to end the war and the blockade. They will be held accountable for the deaths of many civilians amid the pandemic.