Yemen Needs Millions More Vaccine Doses Beyond Those Received Through COVAX, Donations

The foreign minister of Yemen's globally recognized government made a plea Monday to world leaders for more COVID-19 vaccines so that his country, ravaged by civil war and poverty, can inoculate the poor and vulnerable.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak spoke before the U.N. General Assembly to say that although Yemen has received about 1 million vaccine doses through the COVAX initiative and direct donations, millions more people still need the shot.

Yemen, a country of 30 million, is far from having most of its population vaccinated. The country's COVID crisis is compounded by other humanitarian issues, such as hunger, poor access to health care and poverty.

"These amounts are still not enough to cover the targeted groups," bin Mubarak said. "We hope that the donating countries will contribute to increasing the number of vaccines so that no one is left behind."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Yemen Foreign Minister
The top diplomat of Yemen's internationally recognized government says his conflict-torn country needs millions more coronavirus vaccines. Above, Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak speaks before the U.N. General Assembly on Monday. John Minchillo, Pool/AP Photo

Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the northern part of the country. That forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia. A U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year against the Houthis to try to restore Hadi's rule.

Yemen's internationally recognized government has reported around 8,988 cases of the coronavirus, including 1,703 deaths, in areas under its control since the outbreak of the pandemic. The Houthi rebels have reported just four cases, including one fatality. According to the World Health Organization, only roughly 1,000 vaccine doses have been allowed into Houthi territories.

The actual toll across Yemen, though, is believed to be much higher, given the scarcity of testing and its war-ravaged health system.

Bin Mubarak also addressed the country's stalemated conflict. His government is supported by Saudi Arabia, which has led the coalition that has been at war against the Houthis since 2015.

"We have made many concessions for peace over the past six years, and we accepted all the initiatives and suggestions that aimed to put an end to the coup," he said, blaming the Iran-backed Houthis for failing to agree to recent initiatives that addressed their key demands, such as allowing the capital's airport to reopen and facilitating fuel imports. He also repeatedly blamed Iran for its backing of the Houthis.