Yemen’s Cholera Outbreak Is About To Get Worse

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Yemen’s cholera epidemic and humanitarian crisis threaten to get even worse:

A children’s advocacy group is warning of a spike in cholera cases in northern Yemen affecting hundreds of thousands of children and their families as a result of an increase in fuel shortages.

Save the Children said Wednesday that fuel shortages have resulted in a jump in food prices and, as a result, a deepening health crisis.

The group says fuel prices have hiked 100% over the past 40 days as the internationally recognized government imposed customs duties in the interim capital Aden. That caused a 60% decrease in the amount of fuel coming through the key port of Hodeida, the group says.

Higher fuel prices not only raise the cost of food in a country devastated by war and wracked by famine, and they also contribute to the health crisis by affecting how much fuel people can use to power generators and water pumps. Without fuel to run water pumps and water trucks to bring fresh water, Yemeni civilians cannot get clean drinking water and risk contracting cholera or other waterborne diseases. At least 18 million people in Yemen lack access to clean water, and that is a result of repeated attacks on Yemen’s infrastructure, including water systems and sewage treatment plants. As the report notes, more than 620,000 cases of cholera have already been identified so far this year. There will likely be hundreds of thousands more by the end of the year. Save the Children explained in their statement that the government’s requirement to pay the duty in Aden has caused both delays in delivering goods and an increase in their cost:

“Between August and September, there was a 60 percent decrease in the amount of fuel coming through Hodeidah port – this is because of a decree by the government of Yemen requiring customs duties to be paid in Aden before allowing ships to discharge in Hodeidah – of course this means double customs duty. The price of fuel has increased by 100 percent over the past 40 days, which made the transport of lifesaving goods to communities in need 30 percent more expensive. Transportation which previously took one day is now taking three days as trucks have to wait for fuel, resulting in huge delays in getting food and medicines to communities.

“We ask the international community to work with the government of Yemen to waiver this decree immediately so that this unfolding crisis can be averted. It is vital that there is free, unhindered access for humanitarian and commercial goods, including fuel, into and across the country as this is a lifeline for many families.”

The fuel shortage further compounds the health crisis in Yemen by attacking public sanitation. A lack of fuel means that sanitation workers can’t remove trash, and so it piles up in the streets of the capital and contributes to the spread of disease:

In Yemen’s capital Sanaa health officials warn that enormous piles of uncollected rubbish littering its streets could lead to another cholera outbreak.

But rubbish trucks have not been able to do their rounds because of a severe fuel shortage, despite last year’s Sweden deal which promised the delivery of goods and other services if the Houthis gave up control of the port of Hodeidah.

Once again, a decision by the Hadi government has imposed greater hardship on the people of Yemen when they are already in the midst of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This is the same government that the U.S. supports and has been trying to force back into power. The longer the war drags on, the worse Yemen’s humanitarian crisis gets. The administration’s continued support for the Saudi coalition and the Hadi government makes the US complicit in this unfolding catastrophe.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

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