First coronavirus vaccine shipment arrives in war-torn Yemen

War-torn Yemen received the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, the United Nations children's agency said, a week after the country's coronavirus committee warned of a public health "emergency," AFP reports. 

The AstraZeneca doses arrived in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen's de facto capital, where the internationally-recognized government is based after being routed from Sanaa in the north by Houthi rebels in 2014.

"Yemen received 360,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped via the Covax facility," UNICEF said in a statement, referring to the World Health Organization-backed global scheme to provide jabs to countries in need.

"This first batch is part of 1.9 million doses that Yemen will initially receive throughout 2021," it added.

Last week Yemen's coronavirus committee urged the government to declare a public health "state of emergency" amid a surge in infections.

It called for the implementation of a "partial curfew" and for the closure of wedding halls, shopping centers and mosques outside of prayer times.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has also warned the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was rising across the country, urging assistance from donor countries and specialized groups.

MSF is "seeing a dramatic influx of critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization in Aden, Yemen, and many other parts of the country," the medical charity said.

"We are urging all medical humanitarian organizations already present in Yemen to rapidly scale up their COVID-19 emergency response," said Raphael Veicht, MSF head of mission in the country.

Yemen has officially recorded more than 4,000 virus cases among its 30 million people, including 863 deaths – but experts say the real toll is likely higher.


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