First Published: 2017-11-10

Threat of 'major setback' on cholera treatment in Yemen
Nearly 2,200 Yemenis have so far died from cholera, which has propagated rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions in war-ravaged country.
Middle East Online

Yemenis collect water from a well that is allegedly contaminated with cholera bacteria, on the outskirts of capital Sanaa.

YEMEN - The World Health Organization warned Friday that a Saudi-led blockade of Yemen was threatening to undo efforts to rein in a cholera epidemic already affecting nearly one million people in the war-ravaged country.

Yemen, where a multinational conflict has caused a daunting humanitarian crises, has seen nearly 914,000 people infected by cholera since the latest outbreak began in April, according to WHO figures.

Nearly 2,200 people have so far died from the waterborne disease, which has propagated rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions.

A massive vaccination campaign had in recent weeks helped slow the spread, but WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib warned the Saudi-led coalition's decision to seal off Yemen's borders this week threatened the progress made.

"We will suffer a major setback if we don't have full access to all affected areas," she told reporters in Geneva.

"Controlling the cholera outbreak is a very difficult challenge... Certainly closing borders and all access to the country will not help," she said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in neighbouring Yemen in March 2015 with the stated aim of rolling back gains by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and restoring the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

The coalition has since the beginning enforced a de facto blockade on land crossings and air and sea ports, and the UN and other international humanitarian organisations are required to take permission for sporadic aid deliveries.

The blockade was tightened further on Monday, when the coalition said it was closing Yemen's borders and ports to aid agencies, after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind a rebel attack in which a missile was intercepted near Riyadh airport over the weekend.

The UN Security Council demanded Wednesday that the blockade be lifted, amid warnings of mass famine.

Chaib echoed that call, pointing out that cholera was "all over the country."

"We need to have unlimited access to all governorates of Yemen to be able to move, to be able to provide assistance to the health centres and hospitals."

The UN children's agency UNICEF also warned of dire health consequences if the blockade continues.

Maritxell Relano, head of UNICEF's operations in Yemen, pointed out that fuel was about to run out.

"The current stocks of fuel will only last until the end of November, and we need fuel to maintain the health centres open and the water system functioning," she told reporters in Geneva via conference call from Yemen.

"The operative water supply systems and the water treatment plants will stop if we don't have fuel, so the risk, the impact is unimaginable in terms of health (and) diseases," she cautioned.


Turkey warns Syria against protecting Kurds

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger

IS kills 25 Iraqi militiamen near Kirkuk

Sudan frees dozens of activists detained after protests

Saudi Arabia to host first Arab Fashion Week

Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs

Iran plane crash rescue search halted for second night

France reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal

Abbas warms up to Moscow amid cold US-Palestinian ties

Israel strikes 'historic' gas contract with Egypt

Are Iranian satellite channels aiding regime change?

Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes after rocket attack

Iraq orders deportation of French jihadist

Pro-Assad militias to enter Syria's Afrin

Three Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant