Cholera outbreak kills scores in Yemen

Medical sources say that 115 people have died of cholera in the past two weeks, while thousands of children have been killed in the nearly two year conflict [Xinhua]

A cholera outbreak is sweeping through the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the Ministry of Health reported late Sunday.

“This declaration came after the cholera epidemic spreads across the capital’s districts and neighborhoods,” the health ministry said, adding that 115 people had died of the epidemic in the past two weeks alone with an additional 2,567 already infected.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed the outbreak saying that there are nearly 9,000 suspected cholera cases in the same period.

Yemen’s health system, already battered by two years of civil war, is unable to cope with this latest crisis.

The debilitated health sector has left hundreds of thousands of children at risk of starvation and death. More than 350,000 children are at risk of starvation in Yemen, with some 7 million of the population lacking basic services and health care.

“The conflict has taken a very serious toll on the water supply, the health system, the sanitation system as well as the economy and that all are about to collapse,” said ICRC Operations Director Dominik Stillhart at a press conference in Sanaa.

Debilitating civil war

In January 2015, the Houthis – who are a Shia socio-political movement – seized the presidential palace and forced then leader Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to resign. They have since sought to consolidate their hold on the country.

Hadi, who was placed under house arrest, eventually escaped and fled to Aden, the former capital of South Yemen.

He then declared Aden the new temporary capital of the entire country, but the Houthis pursued him there and captured that city as well.

The fall of Aden prompted the Saudis and some of their allies to mount military operations to rout out the Houthis, who they accuse of acting as Iranian proxies.

The fight between the Houthis and the government, which was formed in November 2014, has created a security and political vacuum that has been used by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the more militant ISIL, to grow their strength and influence.

It also terminated a Yemeni military campaign, which was beginning to bear fruit, against AQAP.

The Sunni AQAP say they are sworn enemies of the Shia Houthis – both groups have clashed several times in the past year.

Government forces recaptured the city of Aden in August 2015; some government officials soon returned there to administer rebuilding the war-battered country.

The capital of Yemen was then relocated to Aden as Houthi rebels continue to hold Sanaa as their main base of operations.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghr and seven ministers from his cabinet arrived in the country’s temporary capital of Aden in September, asserting that their return was “final”.

Their arrival comes amid a pan-Arab effort to strengthen the government’s hold on provinces in the south of the country.

But Pan-Arab efforts to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa have so far failed.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies