The Red Cross warns that Yemen’s cholera epidemic could reach as many as 850,000 cases by the end of the year:
The cholera epidemic tearing through Yemen, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the war-ravaged country, could impact 850,000 people by the end of the year, the Red Cross warned Wednesday.
The outbreak “has reached colossal proportions,” said Robert Mardini, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Near and Middle East director.
The Red Cross previously estimated that there would be 600,000 cases by the end of the year, but that mark was reached and passed last month. According to the latest report, there are now over 647,000 cases. The figure of 850,000 is the current worst-case estimate, but as we have already seen the epidemic in Yemen has spread much faster than anticipated. It is quite possible that the epidemic will prove to be even worse than current estimates suggest. The millions of malnourished Yemenis starved by the coalition blockade are especially vulnerable to disease, and they are much more likely to die from it because of their weakened condition. While aid workers and medical personnel are working heroically to limit the spread of the epidemic, the Red Cross regional director made clear that more needs to be done, saying that “it is not under control. It is not contained.” He went to observe, “It is the worst health crisis for a preventable disease in modern times.”
The infuriating part of this disaster is that cholera is both a readily treatable disease, but because of the blockade, the devastation of Yemen’s infrastructure, and the destruction of most of the country’s health care facilities proper treatment is much harder for people in Yemen to obtain. Thanks in large part to the coalition war and blockade, conditions have been created that allow widespread infection while also significantly hampering the effort to contain the epidemic. This is happening in conjunction with famine or near-famine conditions, and some of the resources needed to combat famine are being diverted to combat the cholera epidemic. There weren’t enough resources available for just one crisis before the epidemic began. Both funding and aid from the outside world have been slow in coming and insufficient, and on top of everything else aid deliveries have been impeded by the coalition.
All parties to the conflict are responsible for creating this catastrophe, but the coalition and its Western patrons bear a very large portion of the blame. They have caused much of the destruction that created these horrific conditions, and they have impeded aid efforts when they could have expedited them. When news reports refer to this as a man-made catastrophe, we should remember that the Saudi-led coalition and its supporters in the U.S. and Britain are among the chief authors of it.