Aid agencies ramp up response as humanitarian crisis deepens in Yemen

Brutal civil war has devastated the country with the population now facing the world's worst cholera outbreak

Aid agencies ramp up response as humanitarian crisis deepens in Yemen

File photo, people stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, 09-06-2017. Image: Hani Al-Ansi/DPA/PA Images

Aid agencies are stepping up their emergency response in Yemen as the war-torn country struggles to come to terms with the world’s worst cholera outbreak.

Over the past two months, the cholera epidemic has spread to nearly every corner of the embattled country.

More than 1,300 people – a quarter of them children – have now died from the preventable illness and it is estimated that a further 200,000 have fallen sick.

Civil servants, including doctors, nurses, water engineers and rubbish collectors in the region have not been paid for nearly 10 months. 

Brutal civil war

Fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the ousted Yemeni government – supported by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states – has been ongoing in the region for over two years.

The US has been supporting the Saudi coalition with arms sales, intelligence and military support.

In May the US agreed “largest single arms deal in American history” with Saudi Arabia during President Donald Trump’s visit to the region.

Similarly Oxfam has called Britain “one of the principle backers of this brutal war” and urged the country to end its arms sales and military support for Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has forced three million people from their homes and left nearly 19 million people – almost 70% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Emergency response

Today, children’s agency UNICEF delivered 36 tonnes of lifesaving medical and water purification supplies to the region in an effort to scale up the response to the crisis.

The supplies included enough Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) to treat 10,000 people; 10.5 million water purification tablets and a range of other sanitation items.

Image: UNICEF

Dr Sherin Varkey, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Yemen said aid agencies are now in a “race against time.”

“Our teams are working with partners not only to provide treatment to the sick and raise awareness among communities, but also to rapidly replenish and distribute supplies and medicines,” he said.

“More airlifts of critical supplies will continue in the coming days”.

Ramped-up response

Separately Oxfam is dispatching 39 tonnes of water and sanitation equipment to the area as the aid agency urgently ramps up its efforts to tackle the crisis.

The Oxfam aid convoy – worth over €400,000 – includes water storage tanks, buckets, tap stands, hand washing water dispensers, water testing and purifications kits, oral rehydration sachets, insecticide sprayers, pipes and fittings.

The charity said the supplies – due to be dispatched tomorrow – are all vital in preventing the spread of cholera.

Jim Clarken, chief executive of Oxfam Ireland warned that further aid will be vital to prevent the cholera outbreak from spreading out of control – with the UN estimating the number of affected people to reach 300,000 by August.

“The war in Yemen has laid the country to waste, destroying schools, hospitals, homes and lives,” he said. “It’s impossible to overstate the human cost; over 10,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured while countless men, women and children face death every day through the lethal combination of hunger and now cholera.

“As we ship 39 tonnes of aid to Yemen, we’re continuing to call for a massive aid effort and an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian workers can reach communities most in need.”

Oxfam Ireland is appealing for vital funds for their hunger crisis appeal to support people facing famine in Yemen as well as in East Africa, South Sudan and Nigeria.

You can donate to the appeal at: oxfamireland.org/hunger