The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that about 600,000 people in the war-torn Yemen could contract cholera by December this year, a figure which almost equates one in every 45 people in the 27.5-million-strong country.
The ICRC’s striking news on Sunday came as the relentless bombardment of the impoverished country by Saudi Arabia’s warplanes has not only brought Yemen’s healthcare system on the verge of total collapse but also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
According to the ICRC’s statement, the highly contagious disease is “a direct consequence of a conflict that has devastated civilian infrastructure and brought the whole health system to its knees.”
Both the ICRC and World Health Organization (WHO) have already announced in their recent reports that over 370,000 people across the country had caught cholera and 1,800 others had lost their lives after succumbing to the infectious illness since late April in Yemen's second cholera outbreak in less than a year.
Caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, cholera infection first became epidemic last October and spread until December when it dwindled, but only to worryingly resurface again less than three months ago.
Since March 2015, Yemen has came under heavy airstrikes by Saudi fighter jets as part of a brutal campaign against the Arabian Peninsula country in an attempt to crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall the former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The relentless aerial aggression has put well more than half of all health facilities in Yemen in a state of complete or partial shutdown. Furthermore, there are critical shortages in medical staff in over 40 percent of all districts, according to Yemen’s Health Ministry.
Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. Latest tallies show that the war has so far killed over 12,000 Yemenis and wounded thousands more.
On Saturday, the International humanitarian agency Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) raised alarm at the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, calling the situation a “shame on humanity.”
“Sixty percent of the country is food insecure and over half the population is unable [to access] safe drinking water," said the NGO in its statement, adding “Many areas in Yemen are just one step away from a famine situation.”
The US and the UK have been providing the bulk of the military ordnance used by Saudi Arabia in the war. London has licensed 3.3 billion pounds worth of weapons since the beginning of Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen in March 2015.
Washington also sealed a multibillion arms deal with Riyadh when US President Donald Trump made his maiden visit abroad in May. The deal, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as a significant expansion of the security relationship between the two countries.