Human Rights

Yemen contends with war, famine and cholera

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick describes the "triple threat" of conflict, starvation and cholera Yemen is now facing at a Thursday (July 6th) press conference in Sanaa. [Photo courtesy of Farouk Kamali]

Yemen is facing the "triple threat" of conflict, starvation and cholera, UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said Thursday (July 6th), calling on donors to honour their pledges for aid.

"In spite of the triple threat facing Yemen, the UN has received only 33% of commitments allocated for the emergency humanitarian response, and only 60% of assistance needed to combat cholera," he said, speaking from Sanaa.

"Cholera has now spread in 21 out of Yemen's 22 provinces," he said, with the number of suspected cholera cases now standing at 284,000, and the number of deaths at 1,657.

No cases of cholera have so far been recorded in the Socotra archipelago.

"Most of the cases are in four provinces -- capital Sanaa, Hajja, Amran and al-Hodeidah," McGoldrick said.

"Cholera cases are concentrated in people under the age of 15, as this group represents 40% of deaths and suspected cases, and in people over the age of 60, as this group represents 30% of deaths and suspected cases," he added.

Challenges to aid delivery

International relief efforts face a number of challenges and restrictions in carrying out their work, McGoldrick said, noting that relief workers and convoys carrying aid have not been able to move freely around the country.

"Commercial and relief ships have changed their routes away from al-Hodeidah port, causing spikes in the cost of delivering this assistance," he said. "The port has been hard hit by the war and has become unable to receive shipments. This is in addition to restrictions imposed on the port by those running it."

Yemen's humanitarian crisis has become the worst in the world, Deputy Minister of Planning and International Co-operation Mohammed al-Masuri told Al-Mashareq.

"This places double responsibility on the UN, which is now required to first pressure the different sides to stop the war and second, work with partners in rescuing the Yemeni people," he said.

"UN reports show that 18 million Yemenis are in need of food aid," he added.

"This is in addition to the huge outbreak of cholera, which aggravates Yemenis' suffering, in view of the continued war and stoppage of business; something that has pushed unemployment and poverty to their highest level," he said.

Under these circumstances, he said, it is imperative that the international community intensify its efforts to confront famine and the spread of cholera.

Funds diverted

"Humanitarian organisations have had to reprogramme their resources away from malnutrition and reuse them to control the cholera outbreak," McGoldrick said.

"And if we do not get these resources replaced, then using those resources for cholera will mean that food insecurity will suffer," he said.

McGoldrick said much of the $1.1 billion in aid pledged by donor governments in April to deal with the crisis had yet to be disbursed, leaving relief agencies struggling to find funds.

"We are trying to do our best, but it is very much beyond what we can cope with," he said.

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Resolution 2216 must also be implemented, and those creating obstacles and causing internal crises must be pressured.

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We want salaries. We want to buy medicines, face the epidemic, provide food, water and electricity. There are organisations whose money is wasted, and they now have more burdens. There are favouritism, loyalty, parties and affiliation.

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