In a joint statement released Wednesday, the United Nations’ top relief agencies urged the international community to help provide humanitarian aid to Yemen, where a major cholera outbreak has been spreading rapidly since April.
As UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Food Program (WFP) reported following a trip to the war-ravaged country, nearly 1,900 people have died in the past three months, and 400,000 cases of suspected cholera have been recorded.
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“The country is on the brink of famine,” the groups report, “with over 60 per cent of the population not knowing where their next meal will come from. Nearly 2 milllion Yemeni children are acutely malnourished. Malnutrition makes them more susceptible to cholera; diseases create more malnutrition. A vicious combination.”
According to an earlier statement by Oxfam, in just three months, “more people in Yemen have contracted cholera than any country has suffered in a single year since modern records began.”
The situation has been made worse by a civil war that’s gone on since 2015, when a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition began air strikes targeting Houthi rebels, in support of Yemen’s government. Ten thousand people have been killed in the conflict and millions have been displaced, resulting in what today’s statement calls “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
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UNICEF, WHO, and WFP said the conflict has resulted in disastrous scenes in Yemen’s cities. “We saw how vital infrastructure, such as health and water facilities, have been damaged or destroyed,” read the statement. “Thousands are falling sick every day. Sustained efforts are required to stop the spread of disease. Nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s children need immediate humanitarian assistance.”
The three groups met with Yemeni leaders to ask them to allow humanitarian workers into regions affected by the armed conflict, and to work to end the civil war. But the statement stressed that other nations must redouble their efforts to help stop the cholera epidemic.
At Alternet, Vijay Prashad also wrote about the conflict in Yemen and the outbreak that’s resulted, noting that the UN has requested $6.27 billion to prevent famine in Yemen as well as Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, but has only been able to raise 43 percent of that in contributions from other countries.
The U.S. has pledged nearly $2 billion to the effort, but Prashad notes that not only is this not enough to fight famine, it is “a fraction of what the U.S. arms industry has been making by selling arms to Saudi Arabia, resupplying it as it bombs Yemen into famine. Most recently, when President Trump visited Saudi Arabia, the US sealed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This deal is in addition to a $350 billion arms sales agreement over 10 years. In other words, the United States is fueling a conflict that has resulted in war crimes and famine.”
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