Sana’a (AM) – In war-torn Yemen, reports of confirmed cholera started in late September 2016. The cholera epidemic in Yemen has become the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history.
Over a million children were infected by cholera last year due to a lack of access to clean water and vaccinations. UNICEF’s Geert Cappelaere reported that one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable diseases. Malnourished children are particularly vulnerable to contracting cholera. 40% of Yemeni children under the age of five are now acutely malnourished, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Over 1.1 million cholera cases have been reported across Yemen from April 27, 2017, to September 2, 2018. Hodeida, in western Yemen, has reportedly seen 175,075 cases, the highest of Yemen’s governorates, according to a statement from Yemen’s Health Ministry.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which receive support from the US for their military operations in Yemen, imposed war against Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall a government, a staunch ally of Riyadh, initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen. Beyond the deadly daily airstrikes, a third wave of cholera is sneaking into the hungry intestines of thousands of already starving Yemenis.
“We’ve had two major waves of cholera epidemics in recent years, and unfortunately the trend data that we’ve seen in the last days to weeks suggests that we may be on the cusp of the third major wave of cholera epidemics in Yemen,” Dr. Peter Salama,” WHO deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, told a UN briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
The US-Saudi-UAE aggression systematically carried out a bombing campaign on the country’s water and sewage-treatment infrastructure, continues to prevent access to medicine through a crippling blockade, and is pushing the economy to total collapse. More than three years of near-constant airstrikes by US-Saudi-UAE aggression have left Yemen’s roads impassable, reduced its hospitals and clinics to rubble, and short-circuited its electricity service — while a ruinous blockade of Yemen’s ports has depleted the country’s supplies of life-saving medicine. The hospitals that have not been reduced to rubble are barely functioning, doctors have not been paid, and power cuts are frequent.
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Hodeida’s residents have temporarily lost access to clean water. On July 31, the wells that fed Hodeida’s water system and sewage treatment plant in the district were destroyed by US-Saudi-UAE airstrikes. The shortage of potable water that resulted has forced residents to drink water polluted with feces and urine, resulting in the latest cholera outbreak. The US-Saudi-UAE aggression has repeatedly, systematically and deliberately attacked water and sewage treatment infrastructure in Yemen since it began its military campaign against the country in 2015.
According to the Legal Center For Rights and Development, an organization that tracks Saudi Arabia’s violations of international law in Yemen, 727 water pumps and tanks have been destroyed since 2015. Water treatment facilities funded by international organizations have not been immune to US-Saudi-UAE aggression attack. The UNICEF-funded al Asayed Water Network in Sada’a was destroyed by four aggression airstrikes on July 25, leaving thousands of residents, including internally displaced families, without clean drinking water.
The aggression often claims that the destruction of water facilities is not intentional, but the organizations overseeing the facilities provide aggression forces with maps showing the locations of the facilities and indicating their responsibility for running them. The precautions, an effort to protect Yemen’s vital water treatment facilities from airstrikes, have not prevented continuous attacks by the aggression.
The blockade has also prevented medicines and other critical commodities from reaching around 8.4 million people who are believed to be on the verge of starvation.
“The resumption of the Saudi-led airstrike campaign on Hodeidah could create ideal conditions for a catastrophic new cholera outbreak that could affect thousands of people, the international non-profit organization,” Save the Children has warned.
Hodeidah is the lifeline for millions of Yemenis across the country. About 70 percent of all humanitarian assistance and nearly all commercial food stocks for northern Yemen enter through the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef, just to the north of the city.
“Cholera could spread like wildfire in Yemen, potentially infecting thousands of children and completely overwhelming an already crippled health system,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International after a recent visit to Yemen. “Many hospitals have been reduced to rubble, and those that are still standing are barely functioning.”
This post originally ran on Al-Masirah and was republished here with explicit permission. Featured photo: Flickr | EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation
Also published on Medium.