Weapons of War – Yemen’s Cholera epidemic spirals out of control

SHAFAQNA – The land humanity forgot finds itself yet again in the throes of a humanitarian crisis which depths echo of world powers’ callous disdain towards the innocent. The hostages of a power struggle in between two imperious will: that of Saudi Arabia, and Yemen Resistance Movement, civilians have sat but disposable pawns in a cruel chess game. Beyond all matters of politics, religion and nationalism lies Yemen’s disappearing right to live away from harm.

When children stand to either die of starvation or a cholera outbreak, political discourse somewhat lose their appeal. Why argue a future that is being robbed away from Yemen’s children’s chest?

As world nations watch on idle, stuck in those hateful binary narratives their thirst for geopolitical control commanded they abide by, it is a people, and a civilisation stretching back centuries we are forfeiting … Yemen is dying under layers of million abominations and all we have offered are miserable whispers of condemnation.

When it comes to Yemen I do not think any of us can claim immunity from guilt. We have failed to speak for the innocent, and such stain will not easily be washed away. Our silence towards Yemen, this poorest and most ignored nation in the Arabian Peninsula speaks volume of our prejudices, bias, and selective outrage before the plight of nations calling for political self-determination.

I cannot help but recall those words Imam Ali spoke to his emissaries before they ventured outside the then-Islamic imamate: “There are two types of people in the world, people will either be your brothers in faith, or your equal in humanity.”

Yemen has called for the latter and its people were brutally denied. Today thousands have died of a cholera outbreak which should never have been in the first place … tens of thousands stand to die still and yet our hands remain firmly by our side, locked in criminal inaction.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in July that the cholera epidemic in Yemen was spiralling out of control, reaching a milestone of over 300,000 suspected cases. More than 1,600 people have died. Children account for nearly half of all suspected cholera cases in the country, according to the UN’s children agency.

Sana’a-based Taha Yaseen, from the Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, said obstacles that stand in the way of controlling and containing cholera today in Yemen, include, but are not limited to, the ongoing war.

“During [the war] almost all health facilities and healthcare services reached a point of thorough collapse and thus are unable to respond to the increasing need to address fatal diseases and civilian victims. Many hospitals [have] shut down and many others were hit either by air or ground strikes, occupied by militias or used as military barracks,” he said.

“Most [people] cannot afford even the transportation from their countryside areas or displacements communities to the nearest medical centres to treat them for cholera,” he added.

According to the World Health Organization, suspected cholera cases have been reported in 95.6% of Yemen governorates. Apart from Hajjah, the other three affected areas are Amanat al-Asimah, al-Hudaydah and Amran. Only 45% of health facilities in Yemen remain with limited functionality, the UN has said.

In late June, the World Health Organization declared the epidemic in the war-torn nation “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.” At that point, the WHO placed the number of cases at more than 200,000.

Robert Mardini, the Red Cross regional director for the Middle East, says the epidemic is now growing by about 7,000 new cases per day.

“Half of these cases are children,” UNICEF’s Sherin Varkey told NPR’s Kelly McEvers earlier in July. “To understand the scale, we know that one new child is reporting sick with diarrhea every minute. The conflict has had a direct impact on children in terms of many children injured, maimed and killed. But the additional effect on children is due to the failure and collapse of the public service systems.

“All in all,” Varkey added, “the situation for children is catastrophic in Yemen today.”

Cholera, a centuries-old waterborne disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, is now treatable in much of the world. Wth a quick response, medical workers can replace lost fluids and send a sick patient on the path to recovery.

If cholera does not get you in Yemen it is likely famine will. The U.N.’s World Food Program noted in its last report that beyond cholera lies another danger: famine. The agency says roughly 17 million people do not have enough food – over 50 percent of Yemen’s total population.

Yemen is staring death in the face and no figure has yet emerged to demand that a humanitarian corridor be raised against the genocidal tendencies of one out of control Wahhabist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

If efforts are being exerted on the ground by dedicated activists, NGOs and state officials, Yemen cannot possibly do it alone; not when a coalition of superpowers continue to darken its skies with warplanes and suffocating chemical gases.

Amid such chaos one voice has emerged – tentatively at first … louder today:  The Future of Justice, Yemen’s new political party has overseen the establishment of an NGO to address Yemen’s most basic humanitarian needs on those very principles Imam Ali enounced over 14 centuries ago: our equality in humanity and right to choose our beliefs.

Headed by one of Yemen’s most respected cleric: Seyed Hassan Ali al-Emad the The Future of Justice has fought against those divisions war profiteers have played into to explode Yemen’s sovereignty to better assert their own absolutism.

“There can be no peace without Justice, and Justice is an unalienable right we all have on the very basis of our humanity. Such are the founding principles of Shia Islam, and such are the principles we, at The Future of Justice will continue to promote,” said Seyed Hassan al-Emad in exclusive comments.

If such noble goals offer a glimmer of hope for Yemen, our global apathy remains dizzying.

The United Nations said in mid-July that it was suspending plans for a cholera vaccination campaign in Yemen — reversing a decision made a month ago — because the disease’s rampant spread and the ravages of war there would make such an effort ineffective.

Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations aid coordinator in Yemen, said plans for preventive vaccination were being “set aside.” He attributed the change to obstacles in delivering vaccines in the middle of a conflict that has crippled the country’s health system and hampered access to some areas threatened by the contagious disease.

Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told reporters the vaccine doses originally designated for shipment to Yemen would probably be sent to other countries threatened by cholera, where they could be used more effectively.

What does one say before such contempt for human life?

By Catherine Shakdam – This article was published in the Crescent International


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