Yemen Cholera Epidemic!

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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 is almost one in every 45 people in the 27.5-million-strong country.

The ICRC’s news on Sunday came as the relentless bombardment of the impoverished country by Saudi Arabia’s war planes has not only brought Yemen’s health care system to 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 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 Organisation (WHO) have already announced in 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, the cholera infection first became an epidemic last October. Since March 2015, Yemen has suffered heavy air strikes by Saudi fighter jets as part of a brutal campaign 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 over half of all health facilities in Yemen in a state of complete or partial shutdown. There are critical shortages in medical staff in over 40 per cent 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. 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.’

They added: ‘Sixty per cent of the country is food insecure and over half the population is unable (to access) safe drinking water. Many areas in Yemen are just one step away from a famine situation.’

The US and the UK have been providing most of the military ordnance used by Saudi Arabia in the war. London has sold £3.3 billion worth of weapons since the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen in March 2015.

Washington also sealed a multi-billion 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, $110 billion of which will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as a significant expansion of the security relationship between the two countries.

• Iran and Iraq have signed a memorandum of understanding to boost defence and military cooperation in a variety of fields. The agreement was signed by Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan and his Iraqi counterpart, Erfan al-Hiyali, in Tehran on Sunday.

Tehran and Baghdad will strengthen cooperation, exchange experience in the fight against terrorism and extremism, improve border security, and provide the two countries’ military forces with training, logistical, technical and military support.

Speaking at the ceremony held to sign the agreement, Dehqan said while terrorist groups, especially Daesh, were committing crimes in Iraq, cooperation between the two countries resulted in great achievements. He added that more serious cooperation was necessary to prevent the emergence of terrorist groups in Iraq and across the region.

Dehqan said: ‘The signed MoU will set a framework for future cooperation and we hope that it would prepare the ground for serious and effective measures (in this regard).’ The Iraqi minister, for his part, said the agreement was signed in line with the two countries’ common interests. Heading a delegation, Hiyali arrived in Tehran on Saturday at the invitation of the Iranian defence minister. Later in the day, the two defence chiefs held talks on different issues.

• The United Arab Emirates has rejected a Qatari call for dialogue, saying Doha has to change its policies before talks could take place to lift a Saudi-led blockade of the Persian Gulf Arab state. Qatar last month dismissed a list of 13 demands put forward by four Arab countries, which asked the country to close down Al Jazeera television, curb ties with Iran and shut down a Turkish military base.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Saturday welcomed Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s call for dialogue, but said Doha had to make changes which he did not specify.

Gargash said of the remarks made on Friday: ‘Dialogue is necessary and needed but its backbone has to be revision,’ Gargash said as he expressed disappointment with the Qatari emir’s first speech since the crisis began last month.

‘I had hoped that the speech of Sheikh Tamim would be an initiative for revision. Sheikh Tamim described the blockade as ‘a pre-planned smear campaign’ and an act of aggression. The quartet comprising Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties and cut all land, sea, and air routes with Qatar on June 5th, accusing it of supporting terrorism and intervening in the region.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Italy in an attempt to promote the sanctions, insisting in Rome that Qatar had to meet the demands to have the blockade lifted.

He said: ‘We provided our Qatari brothers with a set of demands. We hope wisdom in Qatar will prevail and respond positively to these demands so we can put an end to this page. We will wait for the desired change to occur.’

Turkish President Erdogan headed to the Persian Gulf last weekend in an attempt to patch up relations. He began his visit in the Saudi city of Jeddah where he met Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman before heading to Kuwait and Qatar.

Turkey has stood behind Qatar during the dispute, providing the small nation with food and pledging military support. Ankara has maintained a military presence in Qatar since 2014, sending additional troops since the crisis began.

The Saudi-led quartet in the crisis, which also includes Egypt and Bahrain, is wary of Turkey’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as its military buildup in the Persian Gulf, complicating Ankara’s role as a mediator in the crisis.

A hopeful opening, however, came after Qatar’s BeIN sports network began broadcasting in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday. Subscribers said they were receiving the network of BeIN sports channels, which had been blocked since the start of the Persian Gulf crisis.

Etisalat, a UAE-based telecommunications giant, also reinstated BeIN sports. ‘We would like to advise that starting 22 July 2017 the BeIN package will be available to customers and normal charges will apply,’ said an email message from Etisalat for subscribers. It was unclear what was behind the decision to allow BeIN, a subsidiary of the Qatari satellite network Al Jazeera, to broadcast again.