Iona Craig reports on the appalling conditions that prevail throughout Yemen. Here she notes that progress made in combating the cholera epidemic is being jeopardized by the tightening of the blockade:
But the advances could be short-lived if restrictions on aid continue. “If the closure is not stopped in the coming days, we may see that the progress is stopped,” said the World Health Organisation’s spokeswoman in Geneva last week. A Red Cross shipment of chlorine tablets, used for the prevention of cholera, remained stuck for the fifth day on Sunday on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen.
Without the free cholera treatment and essential humanitarian aid, international agencies warn that many more Yemeni children like Abdulaziz will suffer.
“We are weak, our children are weak and we have nothing left to give. We can’t even feed our animals anymore” said Nor Rashid as she cradled her daughter. “Only God can save us now.”
The cholera epidemic in Yemen has spread to more than 900,000 people in less than seven months. That has made it the worst epidemic of its kind on record, and it has also been the fastest-spreading. The spread of the disease has slowed in recent weeks, and aid groups believed that it was finally on the wane, but the tightening of the blockade has meant that the supply of medicine needed to treat and prevent the disease has been interrupted. That will make it more difficult to keep the cholera epidemic in check, and it also makes it more difficult to combat other preventable diseases. As the country’s food crisis worsens, people weakened by hunger and malnutrition will be more susceptible to illness and will be more likely to die from disease.
The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition isn’t just responsible for exacerbating these crises. They are in large part responsible for helping to create them. Alia Allana details how the coalition war and blockade created the conditions that allowed the cholera epidemic to flourish:
Cholera in Yemen is a man-made disaster, and its spread and casualties are tied to the politics of the war. Aerial bombing by the Saudi-led coalition in Houthi-held areas have damaged hospitals, public water systems and sewage plants.
The damage to treatment plants, many hospitals and clinics, and the country’s electric grid by the coalition’s indiscriminate bombing campaign have combined to create a public health nightmare at the same time that millions are on the verge of starvation. The cumulative effects of two and a half years of senseless war are inflicting profound suffering on millions of innocent people. It is not yet too late to halt the war and lift the blockade to prevent massive loss of life, but to do that requires immediate and significant changes to the international response to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.