PICTURED: Damage to a cholera treatment center in Yemen supported by Doctors Without Borders after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition. Photo credit: Felton Davis. CC. 2.0.
Martin Griffiths, envoy from the United Nations Security Council to Yemen expects all warring parties in the country to agree to a truce soon, as the rainy season approaches, suggesting a 3rd major cholera outbreak may arrive alongside the relentless march of the coronavirus.
Yemen has been the site of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world for 5 years when after a 2015 rebellion against Saudi-aligned dictator Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi saw a group called the Houthis claim power in the capital of Sanaa. Shortly after, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to “restore democracy in Yemen,” even though Hadi had been elected when his name was the only name on the ballot, and you could only vote ‘yes’.
The resulting 5-year conflict has seen widespread and deliberate bombing of civilians, medical infrastructure, world-heritage architecture, water treatment facilities, weddings, stables of horses, and farms and flocks of sheep. The blockade of trade has resulted in mass-starvation and cholera outbreaks, with as many as 85,000 children dead as was reported several years ago.
Agreements on a nationwide ceasefire would be accepted, says Griffiths, in the “immediate future,” with economic and humanitarian measures to hopefully follow quickly.
“The conversations we had with the two parties, and our consultations with the Saudi-led Coalition among other international actors … are continuous, detailed and constructive,” Griffith added, speaking with Al Jazeera.
Opposing sides control the airport in the capital of Sanaa in the north and the major port of Aden on the south coast- the two largest entry points into the country. The Saudis have had a blockade port, preventing a majority of goods from entering the country which has resulted in chronic food and medicine shortages.
Any peace measures would include a likely opening of both, through which an immense amount of money in the form of medical supplies and food would have to flow quickly if the persecuted Yemenis are to have any hope of making it through COVID-19 with anything short of disaster
Ripe for catastrophe
Among a malnourished population torn by war and worn down from cholera, so far only 1 positive confirmation of COVID-19 has been logged in the Middle-East’s poorest country, and one that has been the targeting of relentless bombing during the American-supplied Saudi war effort.
However experts believe this is simply the result of a non-existent testing infrastructure. Even now, without the now-infamous disease having established a foothold in the country, there is little any doctor or hospital could do for someone if they had it.
“Even now, before corona arrives … you would fail to find a ventilator,” said Abdulaziz Qassem according to Reuters, who is part of the coronavirus team at the city’s Joumhuriya hospital. “We doctors don’t have any protective clothing and we will be the first line of defence.”
“It will be difficult to respond if the outbreak reaches rural areas, where health facilities barely exist and there is little or no possibility of testing,” says Doctors Without Borders.
With a population of 24 million, 80% of which require humanitarian aid, the time for war has certainly passed. Yet the most recent attempt to end the U.S.’s bankrolling of the Saudi bombing campaigns was vetoed by Donald Trump, and as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is also one of the least talked about, it seems unlikely anyone in government will cancel the sales of weapons to willing buyers after the Federal Reserve was forced to buy debt and inject liquidity up to and exceeding 2 trillion dollars into the United States economy.