Red Cross fears there are 600,000 cholera cases in Yemen

YemenA girl is treated for a suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen,(AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

370,000 people are believed to have been infected by cholera in Yemen. The International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) believes the numbers will pass 600,000 this year.


At the same time, the UN has warned that ten million Yemeni people are in urgent need of life-saving assistance in the country, which is on the brink of famine.

The war-torn country was hit by its latest cholera outbreak at the end of April. 1,800 people died of the infectious disease, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Over 370,000 people have so far become ill from cholera.

‘The big tragedy is that this cholera outbreak is a humanitarian disaster that was created by people and could have been avoided,’ said a statement by ICRC President, Peter Maurer.

He was in Yemen on Sunday to assess the situation.

‘It is a direct consequence of a conflict that has destroyed civilian infrastructure, and has forced the country’s health system to its knees,’ said Maurer.

Saudi air attacks

The Yemeni Houthi movement controls large parts of Yemen, having displaced the internationally recognized government, and driven the president from the capital, Sana, over two and a half years ago.

Saudi Arabia, and several other countries, entered the war in Yemen in March 2015 in an effort to reinstate the president, a Saudi ally. Since then, over 100,000 air strikes have been carried out against Houthi-controlled areas, including the capital Sana.

Cholera spreads in dirty water and causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. The disease is easy to treat and prevent, but the ongoing civil war has led to major breakdowns in infrastructure and health services. This has led to very many people not getting help on time. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal within a matter of hours.

20 million people need help, 10 million of them, urgently

Cholera has now been detected in all 22 provinces of Yemen, and the epidemic is spreading far faster than health experts had predicted.

The UN said on Sunday that over 20 million people need humanitarian aid, and for half of them the need for life-saving supplies of food, water and medicines is acute. The poor country to the south of the Arabian Peninsula has a population of 27 million.

Several thousand people have been killed, and millions driven from their homes as a result of the war. A large number of vital ports on the country’s Red Sea Coast are subject to a blockade from Saudi Arabia’s military alliance, which prevents supplies of food and medicine from reaching them.

Less than half of Yemen’s hospitals and health centers are operative today.

‘A shame’

At the end of June, the UN asked the world to look at what is happening in Yemen. The relief organization, CARE, is in despair over the humanitarian crisis, and calls on the world community to put an end to the suffering.

‘We are now in the 21st century, and the current situation is an absolute shame for humanity,’ said Wolfgang Jamann, the international secretary of CARE.

According to Jamann, 60% of the country’s population are low on food stocks, and over half of the population lack access to clean drinking water.

‘Several areas in Yemen are only a step away from a starvation disaster’, he warned.

CNN news reported that, ‘Aaron David Miller, analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center, says ‘the combination of a risk-ready king and Deputy Crown Prince and the American validation … have come together to embolden the Saudis and make them even more risk-ready when it comes to asserting their power in their narrow sphere of influence which is the Gulf, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), and Yemen.’

After initial backing from President Barack Obama, recently, US President, Donald Trump, visited Saudi Arabia and announced a $110 billion weapons deal with the country, and according to CNN, ‘the only way to get into these areas is on humanitarian aid flights, primarily run by the UN.

Based on conversations with multiple sources, CNN has found that the Hadi government of Yemen and its Saudi Arabian-led backers are actively seeking to block journalists and human rights organizations from flying in on aid flights.

A UN humanitarian worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed this with CNN: ‘The people who can let journalists into the country aren’t letting them in — that is the Yemeni government and their Saudi-led coalition backers.’

Paradoxically, at the end of 2016, the UN elected Saudi Arabia to a 3-year term on its Human Rights Council, long after Saudi Arabia had already formed a coalition which, according to IBT News, included Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal, with further support from Western countries such as the U.S. and France. The Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes on Houthi.

© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today