Intel: WHO suspends Yemen staff activity over 'credible threats' in Houthi-held territory

al-monitor Nurses receive training on using ventilators recently provided by the World Health Organization at the intensive care ward of a hospital allocated for novel coronavirus patients in Sanaa, Yemen, April 8, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.

May 11, 2020

The World Health Organization has suspended its staff activity in certain areas throughout Houthi-controlled territory, Reuters reported on Sunday. Specifically, the WHO has suspended “all movements, meetings or any other activity” for staff in the key Red Sea port city of Hodeidah as well as the provinces of Saada and Ibb. Despite the staff restrictions, WHO operations throughout the country remain ongoing.

Why it matters:  The WHO told Reuters that the new restrictions come in response to “credible threats and perceived risks, which could have an impact on staff security.” The nature of those threats is unclear. However, the Saudi-led coalition has accused the rebels of underreporting the number of novel coronavirus cases throughout the northern territory it controls, where most of the Yemeni population lives. To date, the Houthis have only recorded two infections and one death.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the US administration has cut all its funding to the WHO and refuses to work with the international body anywhere, including Yemen. The funding cuts forced the WHO to scale down a sizeable portion of its operations in Yemen last month.

What’s next:  The United States also announced in March that it would withhold the vast majority of its aid from Houthi-held territory due to the rebels’ restrictions on international assistance. However, the State Department announced an additional $225 million in emergency food aid for Yemen last week.

Know more:  Bryant Harris and Joe Snell walk through the latest twists and turns in US aid for Yemen as COVID-19 spreads largely unchecked throughout the country.