Situation Report
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Anwer, an Ethiopian migrant in Yemen, receives his COVID-19 vaccine at the IOM Migrant Response Point in Aden. Photo: Majed Mohammed/IOM.

COVID-19 vaccination campaign for migrants

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for migrants stranded in Yemen, aiming to inoculate around 7,500 people at its Migrant Response Points in Aden and Ma’rib. The vaccination campaign is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization with support from the governments of Germany, Finland and EU Humanitarian Aid.

IOM welcomed the Government’s commitment to protecting migrants against COVID-19 and noted that immunizing people on the move is key to combatting the spread of the disease. “There are still not enough doses to protect everyone in Yemen from this disease. More support from the international community to supply the country with enough vaccines will save lives,” said IOM’s Chief of Mission, Christa Rottensteiner.

As of 31 December, there have been more than 10,000 cases reported in Yemen, including nearly 2,000 associated deaths, but these figures greatly underestimate community spread, given the lack of testing capacities across the country. Aid agencies continue to advocate for more efforts to protect vulnerable populations by ramping up vaccination efforts for people on the move. Overall, vaccination is ongoing but the vaccines made available for Yemen in 2021 fall far short of existing needs. Only two per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

Since April this year, when the Government launched its vaccination campaign, IOM has been supporting efforts by the Ministry of Health to vaccinate at-risk and hard-to-reach populations. They have also included health workers, people with chronic illnesses and elderly citizens vaccinated at IOM-supported health centres in Aden, Ma’rib and Ta’iz governorates.

IOM has been conducting awareness-raising sessions among migrants to spread accurate information and debunk vaccine misconceptions. Vaccinated migrants will receive immunization documents which will allow them easier access to health facilities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, IOM has helped prevent the spread of the disease and provide treatment for those infected. It encouraged behaviours to prevent transmission, increased disease surveillance and testing, and secured critical supplies and personal protective equipment for health facilities. In 2021, more than 135,000 people were reached with COVID-19 awareness sessions and over 400,000 people have been screened for COVID-19 at IOM-supported health facilities throughout the country.

An estimated 36,000 migrants have been stranded on their journeys due to COVID-19-related mobility restrictions, nearly 3,500 in Ma’rib. Many are sleeping rough or in overcrowded and unsanitary accommodation where the virus can easily spread. Vaccinating against COVID-19 is even more crucial in places such as Ma’rib where ongoing conflict continues to weaken health facilities and disrupt the supply chain for medicines.