In Wake of 'Shameful' Vote by US Senate, New Cholera Warning for Yemen

Four-year-old Yassin is examined by a doctor in Yemen. (Photo: Sadeq Al-Wesabi/WHO/Twitter)

In Wake of 'Shameful' Vote by US Senate, New Cholera Warning for Yemen

"Let's not fool ourselves. Cholera is going to come back," says UNICEF's Middle East director

After a "shameful and unacceptable" vote by the U.S. Senate last week to kill a bill that would have halted the nation's military support for a Saudi-led war in Yemen, the U.N. agency for children is warning about the likelihood of another deadly cholera outbreak.

"In a few weeks from now the rainy season will start again and without a huge and immediate investment, cholera will again hit Yemeni children."
--Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF

"Let's not fool ourselves. Cholera is going to come back," Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said at a press conference in Jordan on Sunday.

"In a few weeks from now the rainy season will start again," he warned, "and without a huge and immediate investment, cholera will again hit Yemeni children."

"We are using endless time, energy, and money for issues that we should never have to negotiate. The lives of children should not be negotiable," Cappelaere added, referencing the months his agency spent fighting for a vaccination program in Yemen. "None of the parties in this war have shown for a single second any respect to the sacred principle of the protection of children."

The cholera outbreak has stemmed from, as Common Dreams previously reported "water and sanitation systems that have been bombed out of commission by Saudi Arabian airstrikes that receive direct support from the U.S. military." The humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by Saudi blockades that prevent food and medical aid from reaching civilians.

On Monday, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) also warned of the massive public health crisis in Yemen and put responsibility for the disaster squarely at the feet of both the U.S. and U.K. governments, which have backed the Saudi assault on Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries.

"The U.S.- and U.K.-backed Saudi-led coalition has bombed civilians and blocked the delivery of life-saving healthcare and medicine. This is a violation of international humanitarian law and indefensible," said David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC. "The facts don't lie: the U.S. and the U.K. government's financial and policy choices that support the Saudi-led coalition are prolonging the suffering and deepening the schisms in Yemen."

Since late April 2017, the World Health Organization has tallied more than a million suspected cases of cholera, an acute diarrhoeal disease that is contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated with bacteria, and "that can kill within hours if left untreated." Children under the age of 5 represented nearly a third of the suspected cases in Yemen.

Despite widespread devastation that has left Yemenis battling starvation in addition to diseases such as diphtheria and cholera, U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition has not ceased, and key members of the Trump administration, including Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis, continue to advocate for U.S. involvement.

While 44 senators attempted last Tuesday to end U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia without congressional approval, President Donald Trump met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) in D.C., who was on a "whitewash tour" to bolster U.S. support for his country.

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