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"There is a very real probability that the virus has been circulating undetected and unmitigated within communities," the office of the U.N. aid chief in Yemen said.
The United Nations (U.N.) warned Tuesday against a worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. They said there was "a very real probability" that the new coronavirus is already circulating undetected in the war-torn country.
But for analysts, a deficient testing system and a broken health system mean the actual number of coronavirus cases is higher in a country whose population has been undermined by hunger and disease after more than five years of fighting.
"Since the first confirmed COVID case, we have warned that the virus is now in Yemen and may quickly spread," the humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said.
"The factors are all here. Low levels of general immunity, high levels of acute vulnerability, and a fragile, overwhelmed health system."
The Yemeni civil war started on March 26, 2015, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a coalition in a military campaign against the Houthis, to restore the Saudi-backed government of ousted Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi.
The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people. Approximately 80 percent of Yemen's population, or 24 million people, rely on aid, and 10 million are facing famine, according to the U.N.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) halted funding last month, arguing that Houthis were hindering aid distribution.
Similarly, the World Food Programme (WFP) said earlier this month it had halved food aid to Houthi-controlled areas.
Some US$89.4m is urgently needed in coming weeks to keep life-saving programs running, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday, adding that the shortfall threatens critical assistance for Yemenis and refugees "most vulnerable" to COVID-19.
"Yemen is already considered to be the world's largest humanitarian crisis," UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told a virtual press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.