Yemen: Port Of Hudaydah is "One Airstrike Away From Unstoppable Cholera Epidemic", Says UN. Then There Were More Airstrikes

HUDAYDAH, Yemen

Updated August 8

Early reports suggest multiple deaths and injuries after Yemen’s largest hospital, Al Thawra, was hit August 2, said Dr. Peter Salama, who is in charge of Emergency Preparedness and Response at the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We’re particularly saddened at WHO by the attack on one of the major hospitals in the country yesterday, Al Thawra in Al Hudaydah,” he said. According to latest news reports, at least 20 have been killed by several air strikes, which also hit a fish market in the city.

WHO called  "on all parties to the conflict to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and to respect the request of the UN and international community for three full days of tranquility and to lay down arms to allow us to vaccinate the civilian population for cholera".

The attack on the hospital – which houses a major cholera treatment centre - is the latest outrage in the fight to capture the key Red Sea port from Houthi opposition militia. The Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, which has been living under fire from pro-Government forces for weeks, could be just “one airstrike away from an unstoppable epidemic”, Lise Grande the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the country had said July 29.

Hudaydah is one of the epicenters of the large cholera outbreak which began last year across Yemen. Grande said that the deadly water-bourne disease “is already present in neighbourhoods across the city and governorate. Damage to sanitation, water and health facilities jeopardizes everything that we are trying to do…".

The port is the primary gateway for food and humanitarian supplies and has been in the hands of Houthi rebels since the end of 2014.

Overall, 22 million people – or 75 per cent of the Yemeni population – require some form of humanitarian help or protection, including nearly 8.5 million who do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Saudi-led coalition forces moved on Hudaydah in the middle of June. Diplomatic moves have helped to prevent an all-out military invasion of the city while the warring parties negotiate a potential deal that could allow fighters to leave.

Nevertheless, local health facilities reported in mid-July that around 328 had been injured and nearly 50 killed during fighting to that point.

UNICEF has called repeated attacks on water systems in Yemen "deplorable". Geert Cappelaere, the agency's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said in a July 24 statement that:

“Continuous attacks on water systems in Yemen are cutting off children and their families from water; increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases spreading in the war-torn country", Cappelaere said.

The UN describes Yemen as the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world", with millions of Yemenis facing imminent famine as well as battling cholera and diphtheria outbreaks.

Fighting between the Saudi-led Arab coalition backed by the US and UK, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has killed more than 10,000 people and caused over 40,000 casualties in Yemen since March 2015. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed in the fighting.

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