UN Warns Yemen is ‘One Airstrike Away From an Unstoppable Epidemic’
Humanitarian efforts are currently under serious threats in war-torn Yemen. Major parts of the country are reeling from the devastating results of a long, drawn-out war between government forces backed by foreign nations and local Houthi rebels bent on taking power. With incessant airstrikes from overhead warplanes belonging to Saudi-led coalition forces, port Hudaydah and major cities are in disarray.
Due to the devastation to Yemen’s public water, health and sanitation infrastructure the country is already experiencing the largest cholera outbreak in history, and the United Nations warns it could be getting worse.
The U.N.’s Yemen humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande warned cholera “is already present in neighborhoods across the city and governorate. Damage to sanitation, water and health facilities jeopardizes everything that we are trying to do…We could be one airstrike away from an unstoppable epidemic.”
UN Diplomatic Intervention Prevented All-Military Invasion of Hodaydah
Grande said the U.N. has been reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people within and around Hudayday to offer them relief. However, airstrikes from coalition warplanes continue to disrupt humanitarian efforts, destroy human facilities and endanger the lives of civilians.
Food and humanitarian supplies are usually shipped into Yemen through Hudaydah port, but both the port and the city has been in the control of Houthi fighters since late 2014. Heavy fighting between rebel Houthis and coalition forces has drastically made things worse for both the city and innocent civilian residents.
In fact, if not for the deft diplomatic moves of Martin Griffiths, the head of the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, coalition forces were all set to invade Hudaydah a couple of weeks back. Griffiths swift intervention halted the invasion while both sides negotiated a deal to allow rebel fighters to withdraw from Hudaydah.
Damage to Water, Sanitation and Health Facilities Is a Call to Cholera Epidemic
According to the United Nations, about 75 percent of the entire Yemeni population, translating to 22 million people, has had to rely on humanitarian help to live or survive. About 8.5 million of these people have no reliable source of food since they are displaced and their means of survival destroyed. Local officials said about 50 people had been killed and 328 injured in intense clashes as of mid-July.
“Since the start of the recent military offensive,” said Ms. Grande, “humanitarian partners have been providing food, water, emergency kits, cash and healthcare.”
To make the situation much worse, airstrikes hit close to a maternity health clinic, a major lab in Hudaydah, a sanitation station, and a water facility in Zabid. According to Grande, the damaged water station supplies the majority of the water available to city users. With cholera outbreaks holding major parts of the country by the jugular, the current damage to water and sanitation and health facilities indicates that that Hodaydah and other surrounding parts are on the verge of an even more devastating cholera epidemic.