Houthis Exploit ‘Pandemic Fight’ to Impose Levies on Yemen Healthcare Sector
For the fourth consecutive day of their new levies, the Iran-backed Houthi militias continued to target healthcare workers in the Yemeni capital under the pretext of abiding by the preventative measures against the coronavirus. The militias have exploited the outbreak to extort and loot vital sectors in areas under their control in Yemen, either by arbitrarily shutting them down or by terrorizing them into paying levies.
Medical sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that using the Health Office under its control, the Houthis have targeted public and private medical facilities and pharmacies in the capital.
Doctors and healthcare workers revealed that hundreds of hospitals and healthcare centers are being forced by the militias to pay levies, ranging between 300,000 and 2,000,000 rials, under the pretense that they will be used to raise awareness about the coronavirus.
Sources confirmed that the militias formed more than 15 "supervisory" committees, consisting of Houthi members and supporters to target 344 medical and pharmaceutical institutions in Sanaa.
According to the Houthi version of Sabaa news agency, the militias aim to target five government and 75 private hospitals, 75 government and 500 private healthcare centers and 1,700 pharmacies.
Medical sources said the Houthis’ arbitrary coronavirus “awareness campaigns” have so far targeted all government hospitals, 40 private hospitals, 250 government and community hospitals and hundreds of pharmacies and pharmaceutical institutions.
Pharmacy and pharmaceutical institution owners in Sanaa warned against the militias' plans to loot, shut down and confiscate treatment facilities in the capital.
Several owners told Asharq Al-Awsat that in these critical circumstances, this would lead to a further deterioration of healthcare services, exacerbate the suffering of patients, increase the number of deaths and would lead to the spread of new diseases and infections.
Local monitors have pointed out that the Houthis have expanded their targeting and harassment of the medical and pharmaceutical sectors in areas under their control. They said that this behavior is an old Houthi method to extort owners of these facilities and impose levies on them under false pretenses, such as confronting the coronavirus. They expect that these crimes and violations will double the already high expenses of healthcare for Yemenis.
This set of unjustified practices by the Houthis has come at a time where international and local reports indicate that Yemen is still suffering from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In previous reports, the United Nations indicated that the entire healthcare system in the country has collapsed, and this has led to the spread of diseases and outbreaks in the country, especially in areas under Houthi control.
Only a small number of healthcare facilities are fully functioning in Yemen right now, while reports indicate that around 22 million Yemenis, more than two-thirds of the population, require urgent humanitarian and medical aid.