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Statement by the Development Champions Forum and Recommendations to Deal with the COVID-19 Pandemic and its Economic Implications

Statement by the Development Champions Forum and Recommendations to Deal with the COVID-19 Pandemic and its Economic Implications

April 6, 2020

The world is going through extraordinary circumstances with the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which threatens human life and health and is having a negative impact on global trade and national economies.  In Yemen, we are doubly vulnerable due to the conditions caused by the conflict and the economic crisis. Therefore, the Development Champions Forum calls for an immediate halt of all military operations across Yemen, and for a positive and swift response to the call from the UN Secretary-General for a ceasefire to focus on dealing with this pandemic and its effects.

The pandemic’s implications will place additional and unprecedented burdens on Yemenis, in addition to the suffering they are going through now. Therefore, we call upon all political forces in Yemen to deal with the recent developments with a sense of responsibility and humanitarian duty and to consider it an opportunity to start a comprehensive peace process.

The weakness of state institutions in these difficult times necessitates a comprehensive review of the condition of these state institutions and the implementation of fundamental solutions, including reforming the cabinet into a smaller and more effective technocratic one that is able to:

  1. Deal with the current and potential challenges,
  2. Carry out wide-reaching economic reforms,
  3. Implement a strategy to curb poverty and improve governance,
  4. Streamline spending and combat corruption.

The Development Champions Forum also reiterates the importance of urgent coordination and integration among the operation command centers that have been created in all governorates to face this pandemic, whose impact could last more than a year. The Development Champions Forum also stresses the importance of activating the role of local authorities and providing incentives to various sectors, like the private sector, the media, and community and youth initiatives in the governorates, to participate in dealing with the pandemic.

The Forum stresses the importance of all the healthcare procedures that have been taken in the country, and we call for further precautionary measures to ensure prevention in markets and public gatherings. The fact that a large portion of Yemeni society needs to work outside their homes, and for a daily wage, needs to be taken into account. Therefore we recommend the creation of guidance materials for them that are suitable for their need to work. The Forum also stresses the importance of respecting the dignity and needs of civilians during the implementation of such measures.

We would also like to draw attention during these harsh times to the fact that this suffering affects all segments of society, especially women, children, internally displaced persons and the poor, who live in crowded and unhealthy settings. Therefore we recommend these groups be taken into account when creating and implementing any interventions.

As the expected economic implications of these measures could be more than Yemenis can cope with, we present the following recommendations and proposals:

  1. Calling upon the Yemeni parties to form a joint crisis unit at the national level to manage this crisis and reach an agreement on several measures to alleviate the health and economic impact of the pandemic, in partnership with international organizations, the private sector and civil society.
  2. Securing the in-country food and medicine stock and taking all necessary steps to do so through several proposed measures:
    • Developing a joint emergency plan between the government, food traders, pharmaceutical companies and international organizations providing relief, such as the World Food Programme. This plan should include a database of in-country food and medicine stores and should determine the necessary measures to ensure the continued flow of food and medicine into Yemen, whether through imports or by revitalizing local production.
    • Working to remove any and all obstacles to goods reaching Yemen’s sea and land ports to reduce delays in goods arriving as a result of the current global crisis.
    • Regulating local food and medicine markets, stopping any monopolies, monitoring prices, and stopping any price-gouging.
    • Securing the process of transporting and distributing goods in the local markets and stressing the importance of opening the road between Sana’a and Aden through Al-Dhalea to save time and decrease transportation costs, therefore lowering prices.
  3. Ensuring the sustainability of local industrial and agricultural production, facilitating imports of inputs and raw materials, and facilitating the movement of goods throughout the country by:
    • Providing financing to the agricultural and fisheries sector and small and medium enterprises in this field to ensure the local market is supplied with these goods.
    • Supporting national programs to revitalize agricultural and fisheries production and improve the production and distribution capacity of producers, such as the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Small and Micro Enterprise Service (SMEPS).
    • Encouraging initiatives and innovative ideas that will improve the quality and quantity of agricultural and industrial products.
  4. Stopping the collection of legal fees (taxes and customs) on all cleaning materials and disinfectants, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals needed to deal with the virus that are currently not included in the legal exemptions.
  5. Paying the salaries for all public employees, prioritizing healthcare workers, and urgently finalising the mechanism to pay salaries from the revenue account in the Central Bank of Yemen’s Hudaydah Branch.
  6. Repealing the decree by the de facto authorities in Sana’a to prohibit the use of newly printed Yemeni Rial banknotes, along with the complete cessation of printing and issuing any new banknotes.
  7. Supporting the government’s plan to establish a fund to finance efforts to deal with the pandemic and its effects and calling upon organizations, the private sector, and expatriates to donate to the fund, while ensuring that a transparent and efficient administrative body is formed for the fund.
  8. We also call upon international organizations and the countries supporting Yemen to support efforts to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and its effects through:
    • Supporting and strengthening the Yemeni economy so that it can bear the risks and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.
    • Continuing to provide direct financial and in-kind support to the groups most in need and most affected by the pandemic, and ensuring that this assistance is delivered through transparent and responsible mechanisms.
    • Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the healthcare system by: providing it with the equipment and supplies necessary, such as diagnostic equipment, ventilators, and intensive care equipment; providing training to healthcare staff to deal with the possibility of the pandemic appearing in Yemen; continuing to provide primary healthcare services; and stopping the collapse of the healthcare system.
    • Expanding small- and micro-financing services for productive enterprises that contribute to providing for the basic needs of society, including the development of productive models that reduce the risk for borrowers.

The Development Champions Forum would also like to reiterate the preparedness of all of its members to provide advice and to discuss the details of any proposed measures with the responsible authorities in any part of Yemen, as success in dealing with this challenge in Yemen will only come through concerted efforts and contributions from everyone to provide everything possible to protect the Yemeni people from the repercussions of this pandemic.