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Cholera epidemic ICRC president condemns ‘man-made humanitarian catastrophe’ in Yemen

Epidemic: Sanitation systems nationwide have been destroyed by Yemen's civil war, promoting the contamination of drinking water by the bacteria that cause cholera.

(Keystone)

Peter Maurer is visiting three Yemeni cities in five days to support aid workers and meet with officials to address the health crisis that has ravaged the war-torn nation for the past four months.  

Maurer arrived in the Middle Eastern country on Sunday for his tour, which includes visits to the cities of Aden, Taiz and Sana’a and meetings with healthcare workers on the ground. The Swiss national will also “discuss the humanitarian situation with communities and officials on all sides of the conflict”, the ICRC said in a press release.

According to the Geneva-based international humanitarian aid organisation, the current number of cholera cases in Yemen is expected to surpass 600,000 by the end of the year, which means one in every 45 Yemenis could be affected. It’s estimated that some 1,800 have already perished.

Maurer tweet 1

Preventable tragedy

Devastation of infrastructure caused by the ongoing civil war, which began in 2015, has included the destruction of sewage and wastewater treatment networks across the entire country. This destruction then led to the outbreak of the water-borne bacterial disease, starting in April. The demand for medical care cannot be met by Yemen’s medical facilities, fewer than half which are currently operational.

“I find this needless suffering absolutely infuriating. The world is sleep-walking into yet more tragedy,” said Maurer in a statement.

“Further deaths can be prevented, but warring parties must ease restrictions and allow the import of medicines, food and essential supplies and they must show restraint in the way they conduct warfare.”

Maurer tweet 2

In addition to the cholera outbreak, Maurer also addressed the civil conflict by meeting with detainees in the southwestern city of Taiz on Tuesday. The ICRC president called for all warring parties to provide unconditional and immediate access to people detained in relation with the conflict”.

Maurer is joined this week by leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to call for humanitarian aid in Yemen, which is urgently needed by some 20 million people, the ICRC estimates. According to the United Nations, a $2.1 billion (CHF 1.99 billion) humanitarian aid appeal has only been funded by one-third, with the cholera epidemic increasing the need by another $250 million.

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swissinfo.ch and agencies/cl

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