Sana’a (GPA) – The Saudi coalition continues weaponizing disease in Yemen — this time capitalizing on the novel coronavirus — in a disturbing and barbaric fashion. Saudi planes have air dropped suspicious face masks and other supplies potentially contaminated with COVID-19 into some of Yemen’s most vulnerable areas.
Speaking to Geopolitics Alert on Monday, Dr. Yosuf Al-Haidari, official spokesman of Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health, said Saudi planes dropped suspicious packages across Yemen’s impoverished Hodeidah province containing face masks and other supplies. Dr. Al-Haidari called the action “strange” and “unrealistic” due to Riyadh’s history of weaponizing disease and destroying Yemen’s healthcare sector through a five-year blockade.
It’s worth mentioning that Hodeidah province is still an active frontline in the war, facing hundreds of Saudi airstrikes and artillery bombardment every day.
Yemen’s Health Ministry urged residents not to touch the masks due to their potential for containing biological weaponry.
It wouldn’t be out of character for Riyadh to contaminate medical supplies with COVID-19 before distributing them to Yemen’s vulnerable populations. In 2017, Yemen suffered a cholera outbreak globally unprecedented in modern times. Over 2 million were infected as of October 2019 with thousands succumbing to the medieval illness.
At the time, Saudi Arabia stood accused of weaponizing the outbreak by prohibiting aid from entering the country, such as medicine and sanitation supplies. At the peak of the cholera outbreak, Riyadh also launched airstrikes against water treatment facilities. (Cholera spreads through contaminated water.)
At the time, Geopolitics Alert suggested Riyadh could have spread cholera as a biological weapon. Saudi Arabia has also benefited from further outbreaks in Yemen such as dengue fever, malaria, and H1N1.
Now, with a failing healthcare sector, Yemenis face the threat of coronavirus: a disease with no cure and for which people have no immunity.
Dr. Al-Haidari told Geopolitics Alert that Yemen has remained COVID-19 free for over 100 days despite the global pandemic and holds the Saudi coalition entirely accountable for any outbreak in Yemen.
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Saudis air drop suspicious supplies while holding 18 aid ships hostage
If Saudi Arabia genuinely had the best interests of Yemenis at heart, rather than attempting to weaponize a pandemic, they would allow fuel and medical supplies to enter the country.
On Sunday, a Yemeni port official working at Hodeidah reported that the Saudi coalition was holding 18 vessels hostage and preventing them from docking. The ships contain fuel including 112 thousand tons of gasoline and 148 thousand tons of diesel as well as food and other supplies.
Before traveling to Hodeidah port for distribution in Yemen, all aid ships first must dock in Djibouti for inspection from two entities: Saudi officials themselves and officials from the United Nations. Despite scrupulous inspection for weapons or missile parts, Saudi Arabia still refuses to allow entry to the vessels.
As Dr. Yosuf Al-Haidari told Geopolitics Alert in October, the lack of fuel is directly responsible for crumbling Yemen’s healthcare system. Most hospitals and other large buildings in Yemen rely on gas-powered generators. Yemen’s electrical grid was already underdeveloped before the war but over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has targeted important power stations throughout the country.
No access to water means a pandemic will spread like wildfire
In a monthly report sent to Geopolitics Alert, the Republic of Yemen said the Saudi coalition destroyed 43 water treatment facilities and tanks during the month of February leading up to the global coronavirus outbreak.
Detroit serves as a chilling example of what could happen in Yemen should households not have access to clean water for handwashing during a pandemic. In Detroit, positive cases of deadly COVID-19 have surged compared to other US cities due to thousands of homes lacking running water, countless people without access to any healthcare, and a high prevalence of at-risk populations with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
In Yemen, 80% of people already require urgent humanitarian aid, such as food or medical supplies. As Yemen’s Health Ministry spokesman previously told Geopolitics Alert, 44% of children under five are malnourished and a child dies every ten minutes. Every two hours, a woman dies due to complications from pregnancy.
Furthermore, Dr. Al-Haidari said 95% of the medical devices in Yemeni government hospitals have passed their validity period but doctors must use them because there is no alternative. 500 thousand patients with diabetes, heart disease, six thousand with kidney failure, three thousand with kidney transplants, 60 thousand with cancer, and tens of thousands with other chronic diseases cannot access their medicines due to the high price in the commercial market.
All of the patients above — including pregnant women, malnourished children, and the elderly — face death and severe complications like pneumonia should COVID-19 run unchecked in Yemen.
The United States helps spread disease in Yemen
The Saudi war against Yemen entered its fifth year this week. While Yemenis typically hold a massive march to demonstrate against the airstrikes and blockade, the streets remained empty due to the threat of potentially spreading coronavirus.
US-backed Saudi airstrikes and military bombardment have killed or injured 41,476 civilians throughout the course of the war, according to local rights groups.
The United States plays a pivotal role in the Saudi war against Yemen. Washington provides troops, training, fighter jets, fuel for warplanes, and precision-guided smart missiles to Riyadh specifically for their war against Yemen. Furthermore, the United States also supplies logistical support for selecting airstrikes, intelligence, and troops for manning airstrike command centers.
Owner and editor of Geopolitics Alert, Randi Nord is a US-based geopolitical analyst and content strategist. She covers US imperialism with a special focus on Yemen, Iran, and Lebanon. Born in Detroit, she learned about the media’s pivotal role in selling “humanitarian” interventions as a teenager during the aftermath of 9/11 and Iraq war. Randi has lived in Hawai’i and Lebanon. She frequently participates in the UN Human Rights Council as a guest of NGOs and speaks at anti-war events.