Yemen faces disastrous humanitarian crisis, UN says

Published 30.09.2017 00:00

Yemen is facing one of the most disastrous humanitarian crises in present day, a United Nations official said last week in Geneva during the 36th session of the Human Rights Council. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore said: "7.3 million are on the brink of famine [and] 18.8 million today are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 10.3 million in acute need."

Recent reports indicate that millions of people are suffering from starvation and diseases caused by unsanitary water, especially cholera. The cholera outbreak in Yemen has claimed 2,000 lives since April, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite international calls, the warring factions do not allow the delivery of aid to the country, leaving civilians stuck between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the Saudi-led coalition and al-Qaida.

Besides the killing of civilians, Yemenis face other critical problems such as a lack of access to clean water, electricity and food. In some besieged areas, children are starving to death. A recent UNICEF report says water-related diseases have affected over 5 million Yemenis. "The current situation of the national health system is of great concern for UNICEF and its partners. According to preliminary results from the WHO-supported Health Resources Availability Mapping System (HeRAMS), over 54 percent of health facilities in 16 governorates surveyed are not functioning or partially functioning, only 37 percent of hospitals remain fully functional and 70 percent of governorates report levels of staffing below the minimum WHO benchmark of 22 health workers for every 10,000 people. In this scenario, health authorities have been forced to close down or reduce services, leaving thousands of people with no access to essential health care," the report says. According to the report, 20 million people have been affected by the war and 3 million suffer from lack of nutrition. It also says that more than $180 million are necessary to cope with the situation and that only $130 million were available.

While the humanitarian crisis continues, Agence France-Presse (AFP) said Saudi Arabia has been threatening the countries that back a U.N. probe into the violence in Yemen. "The [Saudi] kingdom, accused of bombarding civilian targets like markets and hospitals, has so far succeeded in blocking an international probe. The Human Rights Council, which concludes its ongoing session on Friday, is again split over a path forward," the report says. Allegedly, Saudi Arabia adopted such a stance after Canada and the Netherlands decided to initiate a probe into the killing of civilians. According to AFP, a letter circulated by Saudi officials said: "Adopting the Netherlands-Canadian draft resolution in the Human Rights Council may negatively affect bilateral political economic relations with Saudi Arabia."

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