CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations has launched a coronavirus vaccination campaign for stranded migrants in war-torn Yemen, the U.N. migration agency said Wednesday.
The International Organization for Migration said in a statement that it aims to inoculate around 7,500 migrants in its centers in the provinces of Aden and Marib but that this was not enough.
“There are still not enough doses to protect everyone in Yemen from this disease," said Christa Rottensteiner, head of IOM’s mission in Yemen. “More support from the international community to supply the country with enough vaccines will save lives.”
Yemen has been engulfed in civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government to flee to the south, then to exile to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the United States, entered the war the following year on behalf of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, to try to restore Hadi to power.
The conflict has not prevented migrants from entering Yemen, desperate to make their way to neighboring Saudi Arabia to find jobs as housekeepers, servants and construction workers.
The U.N. agency said that there are an estimated 36,000 migrants stranded in Yemen, and that many of them “are sleeping rough or in overcrowded and unsanitary accommodation where the virus can easily spread.”
The agency said the campaign to vaccinate the migrants was coordinated with the Yemeni government's Health Ministry and the World Health Organization. Funding came from Germany, Finland, and the European Union.
Since the start of the pandemic, Yemen has reported more than 10,000 cases of coronavirus, including at least 1,972 deaths in government-held areas. The Houthis have reported only four cases in territory under their control.
In April, the country's internationally recognized government launched a vaccination campaign for Yemenis in territory under its control.