Tuesday, 16 July 2019 05:06 GMT

The 'man-made' cholera epidemic in Yemen

(MENAFN - Gulf Times) ‘How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows
That too many people have died?'

These lines from the soul-stirring 1962 peace anthem Blowing in the Wind, penned by the Nobel Prize-winning American singer and song writer Bob Dylan, have still not lost their relevance as they reflect the global community's apathy towards the unfolding horrific health crisis in Yemen.
The last 10 days have seen the two-year old war in Yemen set an odious statistical record of sorts.
There have been more than 320,000 suspected cases of cholera and 1,742 deaths across the war-ravaged country since the end of April, according to the World Health Organisation. On July 12 UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council that 7mn people, including 2.3mn malnourished children of whom 500,000 are severely malnourished under the age of five 'are on the cusp of famine, vulnerable to disease and ultimately at risk of a slow and painful death in the country.
Earlier in the week, the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that 7,000 new cases are being reported every day!
But, so far, these grim statistical figures have done little to stir the conscience of the global community which seems to be impervious to the 'unfathomable pain and suffering of the Yemeni people.
On July 4, a frustrated UN made a surprise announcement that it was suspending plans for a cholera vaccination campaign in Yemen because the disease's rampant spread and the ongoing war would render such an effort ineffective.
The Yemeni cholera epidemic is the direct result of the conflict between a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition and Houthi militia backed by Iran.
The war, which has been a breeding ground for the disease, has created near-famine conditions in the impoverished country and resulted in its economic collapse and a crumbling health system.
Observes say that Yemen's health system has been shattered because of the 'weaponisation of the disease.
The combatants in the Yemen war have actively targeted health and humanitarian facilities and indiscriminately destroyed civilian infrastructure. So, who is to blame for this health crisis?
United Nations officials have publicly castigated the warring parties in Yemen and their international allies for fuelling the deadly cholera outbreak. 'This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen's borders who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and the fighting, says UN aid chief O'Brien. He says the warring parties and their outside backers should feel 'deeply guilty.
Nigel Timmins, humanitarian director at aid charity Oxfam, which has called for a 'cholera ceasefire, told a UN meeting recently that governments were stoking the war in Yemen rather than prioritising the humanitarian crisis.
'In Yemen, governments who are providing generous funding are also making money from supplying weapons, munitions, military equipment, technology. They are providing logistical and financial support for the military action taking place, he says.
Unless these governments realise their complicity and unless the global community wakes up and forces the warring parties to adhere to the basic principles of humanitarianism in times of conflict, an easily treatable disease will turn more deadly than the war itself.


The 'man-made' cholera epidemic in Yemen

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