Sunday, December 03, 2017

Another Wave of Cholera May Strike Yemen Amid Saudi Blockade: WHO
Sun Dec 3, 2017 06:07PM

A Yemeni child suspected of having cholera is treated at a hospital in the Yemeni coastal city of Hudaydah on November 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against a fresh wave of cholera in war-torn Yemen, where a crippling blockade imposed by the Saudi-led military coalition has cut off fuel for medical centers, and vital aid supplies for starving children.

Nevio Zagaria, WHO's acting representative in Yemen sounded the grim warning on Sunday, saying despite a drop in new cases for the past 11 straight weeks, 35 districts across the country were still reporting the highly infectious disease with “high attack rates” in communities.

According to WHO figures, around 960,000 suspected cases of cholera and 2,219 deaths have been documented since the deadly epidemic broke out in April in Yemen, where 8 million people face famine.

Children account for almost a third of infections of the waterborne disease, spread by food or water contaminated with human feces. The disease causes acute watery diarrhea and dehydration and can kill within hours if left untreated.

A worsening economic situation and a dire shortage of clean drinking water, due to failing water sewage systems in many cities and the lack of fuel for water pumps, have compounded the humanitarian crisis, Zagaria added.

“This is a perfect mix to have a new explosion of a cholera epidemic at the beginning of the rainy season in March of next year,” Zagaria said.

He further warned that 16 percent of Yemeni children, under the age of five, suffer from acute malnutrition, including 5.2 percent with a severe form of the alarming condition, which is life-threatening.

The UNICEF says more than 11 million children in Yemen are in acute need of aid.

On November 5, Yemeni forces launched a missile against King Khalid International Airport, located 35 kilometers north of the Saudi capital Riyadh, in retaliation for Saudi’s devastating aerial bombardment campaign against Yemen.

The Saudi authorities, however, said at the time that the kingdom’s army had managed to intercept the missile, the fragments of which landed on the airport campus without inflicting any significant damage.

Following the missile launch, Saudi Arabia imposed a tight blockade on nearly all Yemen’s air, land and sea ports, exerting further pressure on Yemeni people, who receive desperately needed humanitarian assistance through the western port city of Hudaydah and an international airport in the capital Sana’a, both under the crippling siege. The United Nations and numerous charity and human rights groups have already urged Riyadh to fully lift the tight siege of the poor nation, but all to no avail.

The ICRC says the number of Yemeni cities that have been left without clean water, due to a Saudi blockade, has reached five, including the capital Sana’a.

Zagaria further said that a ship carrying 35 tons of WHO surgical and medical supplies was being diverted to militia-held Aden after waiting weeks to offload at Hudaydah.

“We are waiting and hoping that the situation of the blockade will be resolved. We have an opening to the humanitarian blockade but the opening to the commercial blockade is only partial,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstate the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of the regime in Riyadh.

Latest figures show that the war has so far killed over 12,000 Yemenis and wounded thousands more. The Saudi aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country's facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.

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