Yemen’s Civil War and Coronavirus: A Perfect Storm

April 20, 2020

As the first cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in war-torn Yemen, the sides agreed to a ceasefire which didn’t last one day. Information from the war-torn land is hard to come by, and yet arms dealers continue to fuel the war for profit.

As the first cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in war-torn Yemen, the sides agreed to a ceasefire which didn’t last one day. Information from the war-torn land is hard to come by, and yet arms dealers continue to fuel the war for profit.


Tawfiq Muhammad al-Kahlani,, a member of the Yemeni Civil Defense, poses for a picture in personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at their headquarters in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on April 12, 2020. - Yemen reported its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in a southern government-controlled province, raising fears of an outbreak in the war-torn country as air strikes blamed on the Saudi-led coalition tested a unilateral truce. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Story Transcript

This is a rushed transcript. It will be updated

Taya Graham: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Taya Graham. The first confirmed COVID-19 case in war-torn Yemen was diagnosed on April 10th. This was no surprise as one day before on April 9th, the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels agreed on a two week ceasefire to allow the population to take measures against the spread of the coronavirus. [Abdalmarick Aljahfari 00:00:25] is a Yemeni citizen living in Saudi Arabia.

Translator #1: The initiative taken by the king to call for a ceasefire is a positive move and would be even better if it is reciprocated on both sides. There are two wars, one against corona and the other one, which we want to get out of.

Taya Graham: Human Rights Watch called the situation, “a perfect storm.” After five years of civil war, Yemen is considered by the UN to be the worst humanitarian catastrophe on the planet.

The outbreak of cholera has already been more than the impoverished health facilities in Yemen can cope with. There are now simply no resources left to deal with the spread of COVID-19. [Ahmad Kaled 00:01:07] lives in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

Ahmad Kaled: A lot of money was spent on the war, but if that money wasn’t enough, if there was no war, that money was spent on education, medical school, college, knowledge. People or both sides, Saudi government and Yemeni government, will have a better finance result after all.

Taya Graham: The war didn’t just cost money. The Saudi coalition comprised of troops from 10 Arab and African countries has actively looted aid shipments and blockaded the port of Hodeidah to stop food and medicine from reaching the population, which desperately needs it. UN humanitarian coordinator, Lisa Grant had this to say.

Lisa Grant: A ceasefire for the next two weeks couldn’t have come at a more important time. After five years of warfare, three quarters of the entire population of Yemen require some form of humanitarian assistance or protection.

It also comes at an important time because of the more than 40 major humanitarian programs in Yemen, we don’t have funding for 31 of them. This month alone in April, we’re going to see programs all across the country either reduce or shut.

Taya Graham: But the ceasefire didn’t last. Both sides blame each other for breaking the ceasefire. Although reports from Saudi Arabia indicate that the royal family may be growing weary of the war and are looking for a way out, this war has become a bonanza for the global arms industry.

Canada has just announced it will be lifting its arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and signing a $10 billion deal to sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia to be used against Yemenis. The British BAE Systems have already made 15 billion pounds in profits by selling arms to the Saudi coalition. [Mohammed El Paquiti 00:03:02] is a member of the Houthi forces.

Translator #2: The Saudi announcement should not be considered a ceasefire announcement, but rather an announcement of war continuation because it is still using its military power on land, in air and the sea to impose a blockade on Yemen, which is more harmful than the war itself.

Taya Graham: As long as large arms corporations profit from the war, hopes for peace, even in the times of the coronavirus pandemic are slim. The deaths from the war are added to the deaths from the acute shortages in food and medical supplies. And now the 28 million people of Yemen are also facing the unknown death toll expected from the COVID-19 infections. [Abdul Raman Alkadi 00:03:46] lives in Sana’a the capital of Yemen.

Translator #3: This truce that they called can be considered a corona-truce, but not a real truce. We don’t consider it to be a real truce because these two weeks are not enough. We hope for a complete stop to the war, but these partial ceasefires of one or two weeks are meaningless and unconvincing.

Taya Graham: For the Real News Network, I’m Taya Graham.