Yemen cholera toll nears 1,000 amid humanitarian crisis

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 16.06.2017 23:42

The death toll from a cholera outbreak has approached 1,000 in Yemen, a war-devastated and impoverished country where "humanity is losing out to politics", a senior U.N. official said Thursday.

"Time is running out to save people who are being killed or being starved and now you have cholera as well adding to that complication," said Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

"We are struggling because of the lack of resources. We need some action immediately," he said at a press briefing in the Jordanian capital.

McGoldrick gave updated figures of more than 130,000 suspected cases of cholera and over 970 deaths, with women and children accounting for half of the numbers.

"What is heartbreaking in Yemen is that humanity is losing out to the politics," said McGoldrick. He said a $2.1 billion humanitarian response plan for Yemen for 2017 had only been 29 percent funded.

The cholera outbreak on top of famine in Yemen was "an indication to how things are falling apart with only 50 percent of health services" operational.

"We need resources, we need money and we need them now to address the famine and to address the problems of cholera."

Donors in April pledged close to $1.1 billion in aid to Yemen, which the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs calls the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world". But only 25 percent of aid pledged to the U.N. refugee agency has been delivered so far, UNHCR's Yemen spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said Wednesday.

The U.N. Security Council urged the warring parties in Yemen on Thursday to immediately agree on a cease-fire and keep all ports open for humanitarian aid to confront the threat of famine and the rapid spread of cholera.

A presidential statement read at a formal council meeting urged Houthi Shiite rebels and the internationally recognized government to engage in peace talks "in a flexible and constructive manner without preconditions, and in good faith" to end their nearly three-year civil war.

The British-drafted statement, approved by all 15 council members, stressed the importance of keeping all ports, especially Hodeida, as "a critical lifeline" for humanitarian supplies.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the statement was the first by the council on Yemen for 15 months and the first to call on the parties to end the violence, resume the political process, and ensure full access for humanitarian aid and workers.

Given the different national views on Yemen, he said, the council's unity shows the level of concern about the civil war, "exacerbated by the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding."

"This is a sign to the parties that they really must get back to a genuine, meaningful political process ... to finish the conflict, and to overcome the divisions of the past — and the only way to do that is through a long-term political settlement," Rycroft said.

Yemen, which is on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been engulfed in civil war since September 2014 when Houthi rebels swept into the capital of Sanaa and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States, began a campaign against Houthi forces allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in support of Hadi's government. Since then, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been dislodged from most of the south, but remain in control of Sanaa and much of the north.

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