Hunger, cholera push war-torn Yemen to the brink
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
People gather around a charity tanker lorry to fill their jerry cans with drinking water in Bajil, Yemen.