Deadly floods join war, disease to ravage Yemen
Severe flooding is wreaking havoc across Yemen as aid agencies warn of a surge in cholera cases and the potential for a massive coronavirus outbreak in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Officials told The National newspaper that flooding caused by heavy rains killed three children and injured nearly 100 residents of 18 displacement camps in the central Marib province on Wednesday. The children, all members of the same family, died while sheltering from the storm.
In Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, a man and child died after being swept away in a flash flood earlier this week, Yemeni health authorities said.
The rainy season could exacerbate what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Roughly 80% of Yemen’s population is reliant on food aid, and hundreds of thousands are afflicted with diphtheria, dengue and cholera.
Cholera, which is caused by drinking contaminated water or food, has been raging in Yemen since late 2016. The Nairobi-based Oxfam charity predicts there could be more than one million cases of the infectious disease in 2020.
The country’s health infrastructure was already stretched thin after more than five years of civil war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the internationally recognized Saudi-backed government.
The flooding comes as Yemen’s warring parties accuse each other of violating a 14-day cease-fire announced last week by Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition against the Houthi rebels. Local residents said the Saudi-led coalition launched six airstrikes on Thursday in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
Days after the cease-fire was announced, Yemen reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19. The patient was a 60-year-old man in the oil-producing region of Hadramawt, the internationally recognized government announced last Friday.
“Yemen cannot face two fronts at the same time: a war and a pandemic,” UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths told the Security Council in a videoconference briefing Thursday.
“We can do no less than stop this war and turn all our attention to this new threat,” he said.