Saudi Blockade Causes Famine in Yemen
The worst famine in decades may hit Yemen if Saudi Arabia continues to block access for humanitarian aid into the war-torn country, the top UN relief official says.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said, “It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year, where tens of thousands of people were affected. It will not be like the famine which cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011. It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.”
The Saudi-led coalition has tightened its blockade on Yemen after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile last week toward an airport in Riyadh. The blockade included measures hindering agencies from landing planes in the country and docking at Yemen’s ports. However, Saudi’s action was criticized by UN humanitarian chief Lowcock, saying it exacerbates an already dire humanitarian situation in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Mr. Lowcock said the Saudis must immediately allow the entry of aid including food and medicine at all seaports, resumption of air services to the cities of Sana and Aden, and provide an “assurance of no further disruption to these services.”
Lowcock said, “What kills people in famine is infections, or measles, or respiratory tract problems, or a cold. Because their bodies have consumed themselves, reduced totally the ability to fight off things which a healthy person can fight off.”
Saudi Arabia has carried out an air campaign against the Houthi rebels since 2015, after civil war broke out and the internationally recognized government was ousted from the capital, Sanaa.
Biggest Cholera Outbreak in Yemen
The country is struggling with an acute hunger crisis that has affected at least 17 million people, more than a third of them considered close to famine. Aside from that, a cholera outbreak continues to torment Yemen, and the number of cases is projected to reach 1 million by the end of this year, making it “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.”
Alexandre Faite, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, described the scale of the outbreak as “unprecedented” on Friday.
The escalating number of cases started in March this year and in July, 276,000 cases were recorded. However, the current number of cases stands at about 750,000, a record.
Faite said, “Given this trend, we could reach up to 1 million by the end of the year.”
Since the start of the crisis, more than 2,100 Yemenis, around half of them children, have died from the disease as of September 13. The World Health Organization estimated that 5,000 people were being infected each day.
Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea. Infections are contracted by consuming food or water contaminated with the fecal bacteria Vibrio cholerae.