Hunger, cholera push war-torn Ye­men to the brink

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

A SE­NIOR UN of­fi­cial yes­ter­day said that war-rav­aged Ye­men, al­ready reel­ing from mal­nu­tri­tion and dwin­dling health care, is plum­met­ing into fur­ther dis­tress with a deadly cholera out­break and loom­ing famine.

“His­tor­i­cally, Ye­men has been one of the poor­est Arab na­tions – if not the poor­est – with cor­rup­tion, poor gov­er­nance and poor in­fras­truc­ture. The war has sim­ply made it much worse,” said Auke Lootsma, UN De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) coun­try direc­tor.

He com­pared the sit­u­a­tion to a bus “rac­ing to­wards the edge of a cliff”. In­stead of hit­ting the brakes and turn­ing around, “the one con­trol­ling the di­rec­tion of the bus keeps go­ing and pushes the ac­cel­er­a­tor, all but cer­tain to crash,” Lootsma warned.

He said 70% of the pop­u­la­tion – 20 mil­lion peo­ple – were in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance. Ad­di­tion­ally, 400 000 cases of cholera recorded in the past few months have re­sulted in 1 900 deaths.

Due to the scope of the cri­sis and lack of fund­ing and ac­cess, hu­man­i­tar­i­ans “are asked to cover gaps that are well beyond” their man­dates and ca­pac­i­ties, he said.

The coun­try is on the brink of famine, with 60% of the pop­u­la­tion not know­ing where its next meal is com­ing from, said the UN of­fi­cial.

“The food se­cu­rity cri­sis is a man­made disas­ter not only from decades of poverty and un­der-in­vest­ment, but also as a war tac­tic through eco­nomic stran­gu­la­tion,” he said.

Point­ing out that Ye­men im­ported 90% of its food even be­fore the cri­sis, Lootsma said: “It is ac­tu­ally fi­nan­cially out of reach for many of the poor fam­i­lies.”

“The col­lapse of the health, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion sec­tor due to a lack of salaries and dam­aged in­fras­truc­ture,” he said.

Al­most half the coun­try’s health fa­cil­i­ties are no longer func­tion­ing be­cause they are dam­aged.

What makes the sit­u­a­tion worse is that “doc­tors and nurses are not com­ing to work be­cause they have not been paid and (are) look­ing for in­come else­where”.

With al­most 1.2 mil­lion pub­lic ser­vants not hav­ing been paid since Septem­ber 2016, many busi­nesses have col­lapsed.

The con­flict con­tin­ues un­abated, the re­main­ing in­fras­truc­ture is be­ing shat­tered, garbage is pil­ing up and wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties func­tion only marginally, fos­ter­ing dis­eases.

And civil­ian ca­su­al­ties con­tinue to mount, mak­ing Ye­men po­ten­tially the site of the world’s largest cholera cri­sis, said Lootsma. Xin­hua

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Peo­ple gather around a char­ity tanker lorry to fill their jerry cans with drink­ing wa­ter in Ba­jil, Ye­men.

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