Nov 19, 2017

Famine, cholera, and civilian casualties: The crisis in Yemen

Yemenis present documents in order to receive food rations provided by a local charity. Photo: Hani Mohammed / AP

On Thursday, the World Health Organization issued a statement requesting that Saudi Arabia discontinue its blockades in Yemen to allow food and medical supplies in to the country. "Together, we issue another urgent appeal for the coalition to permit entry of lifesaving supplies to Yemen in response to what is now the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The supplies...are essential to staving off disease and starvation. Without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die."

Why it matters: While the Saudis said Monday they would begin opening ports to allow supplies in, NPR reports aid workers are still having difficulty getting food and medical supplies to millions of people in need. But it's not just famine and cholera that are a concern in Yemen; civilian casualties at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition have long been a concern.

Cholera
  • The U.N. reported at the beginning of the month that there have been over 2,000 deaths due to cholera since the end of April, and almost 900,000 "suspected cases" as of November 1.
  • Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, Alexandra Faite, said "we could reach up to 1 million [cases] the end of the year."
  • An estimated 5,000 people were becoming infected daily as of September, per CNN.
  • Save the Children's country director for Yemen, Tamer Kirolos, told CNN that cholera is "easily treatable if you have access to basic healthcare," but the war in Yemen has left hospitals destroyed, health workers unpaid, and crucial aid delivery impossible.
Famine
  • The blockade initiated by Saudi Arabia has impacted millions of people who rely solely on imported food assistance, the U.N. said.
  • Around 3.2 million people "will be driven to famine, and 150,000 malnourished children are at risk of dying in the coming months," according to Time.
  • Per the non-profit Save the Children, "malnourished children...are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera," and there are more than 1 million malnourished children "living in areas with high levels of infection."
Civilian casualties
  • As previously reported by Axios, while the Saudi coalition assured the U.S. it would take steps to avoid civilian casualties, there has been no supporting evidence.
  • While the U.S. is no longer involved in supporting Saudi airstrikes, the U.S. did approve a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis earlier this year.
  • On Monday, the House passed a mostly symbolic resolution "explicitly stating that U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen is not authorized under legislation," per Politico. It does not, however, call for an end to support.
  • Politico also reports that there have been an estimated 10,000 civilians killed since 2015.

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