It’s a milestone no one wanted to reach. There are now 1 million suspected cholera cases in Yemen, a country that has been struggling with war, disease and starvation.
The World Health Organization has recorded 2,219 deaths since the cholera epidemic began in April, with children accounting for nearly a third of infections, Reuters said. The UN has singled out Yemen as the locus for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Now, the International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday announced the million-case mark.
Yemen is in a proxy war between the Houthi armed movement, allied with Iran, and a U.S.-backed military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, Reuters explained:
Cholera, spread by food or water contaminated with human feces, causes acute diarrhea and dehydration and can kill within hours if untreated. Yemen’s health system has virtually collapsed, with most health workers unpaid for months.
Meanwhile UNICEF, the UN’s children’s fund, warned on Wednesday that children in the country risk death as access to clean water runs out, due to import restrictions of fuel into the country.
Saudi Arabia’s blockade of humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen is causing a crisis on many levels, Voice of America reported. UNICEF says the blockade is creating a severe fuel shortage, causing steep price hikes and deepening the country’s already serious water and health crisis:
UNICEF reports the cost of diesel fuel has doubled during the past month, jeopardizing the provision of water especially for the poorest families. It says water pumping stations serving more than three million people in 14 cities are quickly running out of fuel. Spokesman Christophe Boulierac says prices of commercially trucked water, a main source for one-fifth of the population, have skyrocketed.
“For over two thirds of Yemenis living in extreme poverty, safe water is now completely unaffordable,” Boulierac said. “Almost 400,000 children suffer from severe, acute malnutrition in Yemen … and they are fighting for their lives and the poor access to safe drinking water is one of the most important causes of malnutrition.”
UNICEF is urgently calling for an end to the blockade, VOA said. It warns the crisis afflicting the local population—in particular, children—will spiral out of control unless fuel and other life-saving humanitarian aid can freely enter the country.