YEMEN is facing ‘the worst epidemic of cholera since records began’, a report from inside Yemen has warned. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit conflict-research is warning too that the Saudi-led war on Yemen has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.
It further adds that ‘the United Nations estimate that more than half (16 million) of the 29 million people in Yemen even lack access to safe water and basic sanitation’. The report continues: ‘The population in Yemen has experienced two outbreaks of cholera; the first occurred between September 2016 and April 2017, and the second began later in April 2017 and has since resulted in more than 1 million suspected cases.’
It also stresses: ‘According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit conflict-research organisation, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.’
The report continues: ‘The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.
‘According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years. ‘A number of Western countries, the US and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.
‘The most likely source of the cholera epidemic in Yemen has been discovered by scientists. Through the use of genomic sequencing, scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Institut Pasteur estimate the strain of cholera causing the current outbreak in Yemen – the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history – came from Eastern Africa and entered Yemen with the migration of people in and out of the region.
‘The results, published on 2nd January in Nature, show that genomic data and technologies can enable researchers to estimate the risk of future cholera outbreaks in regions like the Yemen and ultimately be used to better target interventions.
‘To understand the nature of the strain of bacteria behind these devastating cholera outbreaks, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Institut Pasteur and their collaborators sequenced the genomes of Vibrio cholerae from cholera samples collected in Yemen and nearby regions.
‘The team sequenced 42 V. cholerae samples from both Yemen outbreaks. To do this samples were collected in Yemen itself and from a Yemeni refugee centre on the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border, along with 74 other cholera samples from South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern and Central Africa.
‘Researchers compared these genomic sequences to a global collection of over 1,000 cholera samples from the current and ongoing pandemic, known as the seventh cholera pandemic, which began in the 1960s and is caused by a single lineage of V. cholerae, called 7PET.
‘Scientists discovered that the cholera strain causing the Yemen epidemic is related to a strain first seen in 2012 in South Asia that has spread globally, but the Yemeni strain did not arrive directly from South Asia or the Middle East. This particular cholera strain was circulating and causing outbreaks in Eastern Africa between 2013 and 2014, prior to appearing in Yemen in 2016.
‘Professor Nick Thomson, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Genomics enabled us to discover that the strain of cholera behind the devastating and ongoing epidemic in Yemen is likely linked to the migration of people from Eastern Africa into Yemen.
‘Knowing how cholera moves globally gives us the opportunity to better prepare for future outbreaks. This information can help inform strategies for more targeted interventions with the ultimate aim of reducing the impact of future epidemics.’
Dr François-Xavier Weill, Head of the Institut Pasteur’s Enteric Bacterial Pathogens Unit, said: ‘Genomic analysis continues to show its power to provide a high resolution, detailed view of the bacteria that causes cholera, Vibrio cholerae, which is critical to tackling this devastating disease.
‘Like the other major cholera outbreaks around the world, we discovered that the atypical strain of bacteria behind the Yemeni cholera epidemic is linked to the single lineage called 7PET, which is responsible for the current and ongoing global pandemic. This potentially enables us to focus our research and direct interventions towards this particular lineage of Vibrio cholerae to greater effect.
‘Contrary to previous theories that the two outbreaks of cholera in Yemen were caused by two different strains, this study revealed they were caused by the same strain of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium that entered the Yemen in 2016.
‘While most strains of cholera that are causing epidemics are resistant to many antibiotics, the team discovered the unusual finding that the Yemeni cholera strain was susceptible to many of these antibiotics.’
Dr Daryl Domman, a visiting scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, now based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, said: ‘Surprisingly, we discovered the cholera strain causing the Yemen outbreaks is less resistant to antibiotics than related strains.
‘The strain causing the Yemeni cholera epidemic has deleted four genes responsible for resistance to clinically relevant antibiotics, making itself more vulnerable to treatment.’
Dr Marie-Laure Quilici, a scientist in the Institut Pasteur’s Enteric Bacterial Pathogens Unit and Head of the National Reference centre for Vibrios and Cholera, said: ‘This study illustrates again the key role of genomic microbial surveillance and cross-border collaborations in understanding global cholera spread.
‘All countries need to be aware of this and act accordingly if they are to achieve the targets set by WHO’s Global Task Force on Cholera Control, which aims to reduce the cholera death toll by 90 per cent by the year 2030.’
Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has angrily dismissed recent allegations by the World Food Programme (WFP) that the revolutionary forces are selling aid meant for civilians, stating that the humanitarian organisation is sending ‘rotten food’ to the conflict-plagued Arab country.
Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, condemned these accusations just last Tuesday, and said the WFP was ‘fully responsible for … quantities of rotten food’ it sent to Yemen.
He added that Yemeni forces refused to allow this food supply into the country because ‘it violates standards and regulations and is not suitable for human consumption’. Houthi said, at the same time, that the Ansarullah movement ‘welcomed’ such an independent investigation and called on the WFP to back up its accusations with proof. He also accused ‘UN organisations’ of ‘bias’.
‘The work of these organisations is mostly politicised,’ he said, ‘and their position … confirms their work has shifted from independent to subordinate to the United States and Britain’.
At the same time Yemeni army soldiers, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, have reportedly launched an airstrike against a position of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen’s former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, in Saudi Arabia’s western border region of Jizan.
A Yemeni military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yemeni soldiers and their allies had attacked Saudi mercenaries using a domestically-designed and manufactured Qasif-1 (Striker-1) combat drone.
Meanwhile, Yemeni soldiers and their allies have shot and killed five Saudi soldiers in the kingdom’s Jizan region. A Yemeni military official, requesting not to be named, said Yemeni army soldiers and Popular Committees fighters stormed a military camp east of Jahfan area, and targeted the Saudi troopers.
It explained that ‘Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement. ‘Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have been involved in a vicious military campaign in Yemen since 2015,’ a further report added. ‘The war is seen widely as a disaster which has created one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War, with an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children having died and a further 20 million facing starvation.
The Gulf coalition is seeking to defeat the northern Yemeni rebels known as Houthis and restore the country’s government-in-exile. The deadly conflict has been supported by the US, which assists its Gulf allies with intelligence-gathering, logistical support and the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and equipment.’
Defecting mercenaries spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters freely. They said that the UAE ‘preferred to work with’ some Islamic fundamentalists who serve as a ‘counterweight’ to its enemies in the south. Under such circumstances, the official acknowledged: ‘It’s very easy for Al-Qaeda to insinuate itself into the mix.’
Ahmed Fadhil Abu Suraima, who is the deputy governor of the central province of Bayda in Yemen, commented on the alliance with both Al-Qaeda and Daesh fighters in Yemen. He questioned the UAE’s motive. ‘They try to make it appear in the media that they are with the United States and they are fighting against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State,’ he insisted. The implication is that the UAE is, in fact, neither one nor the other.
According to Nicholas Heras, a Middle East expert at the Centre for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, someone like Al-Abbas ‘has become a type of indispensable man for the UAE in Yemen’.
While Al-Abbas denies the terrorism allegations, saying his opponents in Taiz fed the US authorities with false intelligence, he still admits that his militia fought alongside Al-Qaeda and Daesh fighters. Some militants, he explained, operated in areas that he controlled but: We didn’t approve of their ideology.’ His men, he added, later pushed them out.