Yemen’s cholera outbreak the worst in history as millionth case looms
The cholera epidemic in Yemen has become the largest and fastestspreading outbreak of the disease in modern history, with a million cases expected by the end of the year and at least 600,000 children likely to be affected.
The World Health Organization has reported more than 815,000 suspected cases of the disease in Yemen and 2,156 deaths. About 4,000 suspected cases are being reported daily, more than half of which are among children under 18. Children under five account for a quarter of all cases, the Guardian reported.
The spread of the outbreak, which has quickly surpassed Haiti as the biggest since modern records began in 1949, has been exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition. While there were 815,000 cases of cholera in Haiti between 2010 and 2017, Yemen has exceeded that number in just six months.
“Cholera has been around in Yemen for a long time, but we’ve never seen an outbreak of this scale or speed. It’s what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a health care system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen.
“There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation. All parties to the conflict must take responsibility for the health emergency we find ourselves in.”
The poor country has been facing war by a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015. Riyadh launched the military aggression on Yemen to eliminate the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall a Riyadh-friendly former president.
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes — supported by the United States and United Kingdom — continued to be the leading cause of 12,000 casualties. The war has also displaced more than three million and ruined much of the impoverished country’s infrastructure.
US support targeted by bill
The Hill wrote on October 10 that the war in Yemen is a tragedy of epic proportions, in which the United States is deeply and directly involved.
The US Air Force’s refueling operations for the Saudi-led coalition striking Yemen could end if lawmakers succeed in passing a House bill.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, on Sept. 27 introduced House Congressional Resolution 81, which would order the US military removed from unauthorized hostilities in Yemen, except operations directed at Al-qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to military.com, the bipartisan resolution, also headed by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Rep. Mark Pocan, D-wis.; and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY., has 30 members of the House as co-sponsors.
The congressman Khanna told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that pulling support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen is not enough: The United States must go further and probe whether its decades-old ties with Riyadh have helped it – or simply sucked Washington into divisive, bungled Middle Eastern quagmires.
He urged the House to vote this week on his bill to stop helping the Saudi-led coalition with military targeting and the mid-air refueling of warplanes in Yemen.
Khanna’s bill says Congress was never asked if the US should effectively join Riyadh’s assault on the country, and demands that it exit the war within 30 days of an affirmative vote.
The bill’s opponents say it does not meet the criteria needed for a fast-tracked House vote, which could otherwise occur this week. Previous congressional efforts to halt US arms supplies to the Saudi-led coalition came close, but did not pass.
A mother sits with her sons while they are treated at a cholera center in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS