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Hunger and disease hit Yemen hard

October 14, 2017

While the international community is focused on resolving crises in Syria and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen is not receiving much attention. The war-ravaged country will have a million cholera cases by the end of year.

Cholera in Yemen
Image: Reuters/K. Abdullah

Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman recently censured the international community for ignoring the plight of the Yemeni people suffering from hunger and disease.

The Middle Eastern country has been torn apart by a protracted civil war between the internationally-recognized and Saudi Arabia-back government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iran-aligned Shiite Houthi rebels.

Riyadh launched an air campaign against Houthis in March, 2015. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of backing the rebels, who have made significant territorial gains in the impoverished Middle Eastern country, capturing the capital Sanaa.

Over 10,000 people have been killed and more than three million displaced since the start of the conflict. Over 80 percent of Yemen's population is in urgent need of aid, and millions of people have problems accessing water, according to the United Nations.

Read more: UN: Civilian death toll in Yemen exceeds 5,000

"The world doesn't pay enough attention to Yemen. It is the forgotten land. There's a lot of suffering in our country. There's a big famine and cholera there," Karman told the Reuters news agency last week.

Read more: War in Yemen: UN blacklists Saudi-led coalition for killing children

Cholera death toll rises again in Yemen

'Worst cholera outbreak'

Aid organization Save the Children warned that Yemen's cholera outbreak could reach more than a million cases, including at least 600,000 children, by the turn of year.

Health organizations say about 4,000 suspected cases of cholera are being reported in Yemen every day. As of October 10, the World Health Organization has reported 815,314 suspected cases and 2,156 cholera related deaths across the country since April 27.

"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 healthcare 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.

Read more: Yemen's cholera outbreak worsens as Oxfam projects 600,000 cases

"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," Kirolos added.

Officials have also sounded the alarm amid medical supplies shortages. Doctors without Borders has suspended its aid after two years, threatening the daily operations of Yemen's national blood bank.

The Saudi alliance has also called on the UN to help reopen the airport in Sanaa - closed in August 2016 to hinder arms shipments to the Houthi movement - amid rising numbers of Yemenis without access to adequate medical care.

Read more: Yemen's war explained in 4 key points

shs/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)