Three cities in Yemen have stopped providing clean water in recent days, putting close to a million people at risk of a renewed cholera outbreak and other water-borne diseases.
"The water and sewage systems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz stopped operating because of a lack of fuel", said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head of delegation in Yemen, Alexandre Faite. "As a result, close to one million people are now deprived of clean water and sanitation in crowded urban environments in a country slowly emerging from the worst cholera outbreak in modern times."
Other major urban centers, including Sana'a, will find themselves in the same situation in two weeks unless imports of essential goods resume immediately. Imports of fuel and other essential goods to the country have been at a standstill since Yemen’s land borders, as well as major seaports and airports, were closed 6 November.
"Hospitals, clinics and emergency medical services are powered by generators which will soon also run out of fuel", added Faite. "Yemen's health structures, which have been close to the brink for months, now risk collapsing altogether. This comes at a time when increased fighting throughout the country result in rising numbers of wounded people. Our own stocks of medical supplies are dwindling, and we risk soon being unable to provide critical support to dozens of health facilities."
The ICRC renewed its urgent call to immediately allow the flow of essential goods into Yemen, and reopen Sana'a airport for humanitarian flights. "Preventing humanitarian aid from flying into Sana'a, and the free movement of humanitarian workers in and out of Yemen, is paralyzing vital assistance on which millions of Yemenis depend for their survival", Faite said.
Fighting between a Saudi-led Arab coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has killed more than 6,200 people and caused over 32,000 casualties in Yemen since March 2015. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed in the fighting.
The US and UK provide the Saudi coalition with logistical support and military equipment for the conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition began enforcing a total blockade of Yemen after a ballistic missile, allegedly Iranian, was launched from Yemeni territory at a Saudi airport on the outskirts of Riyadh November 4. The Saudi coalition said the intensified blockade was to prevent weapons sent by Iran from reaching the Houthis and their allies, who are loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
After the total blockade was enforced November 6, United Nations humanitarian affairs co-ordinator Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that restrictions on aid to Yemen would result in “a famine killing millions of people, the likes of which the world has not seen for many decades.”
The World Health Organization reported (July 2017) a cumulative total of 408 583 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen including 1885 associated deaths for the current outbreak which started in October 2016. This year’s Yemen cholera epidemic has been described by aid agencies as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.