The widespread devastation left by AIDS in the last 20 years has been horrifying, with the syndrome having swept mercilessly across Africa and claiming no less than 35 million lives to date. But the world has been forced to turn its attention to an equally contagious infection that was something of a dark horse, creeping upon the war-torn regions of the Middle East ever so stealthily.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the recent surge in cholera cases…is the fact that the disease is utterly treatable. Indeed, the defining characteristic of cholera is the unprecedented level of diarrhea and vomiting caused, severely dehydrating the patient of critical salts and water, and leading to death within hours. Thankfully, the introduction of oral rehydration therapy back in the 1970s effectively provided patients with the essential sodium levels needed in to sustain their bodies.
So as a water-borne disease spread primarily via contact with contaminated fluids, one could assume that the straight-forward treatment, coupled with the basic sanitary precautions would have led to a complete hiatus in cholera outbreaks, right?
The prompt administration of oral rehydration salts to replace lost fluids nearly always results in a cure
– The World Health Organization
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth in the stricken Yemeni town of Abs. The October of 2016 marked a sudden outbreak of Cholera, primarily in the capital city of Sana’a. Its rapid geographic spread to nearly 135 districts by mid-December was deemed rather unusual by the World Health Organization.
The battered and war-torn country fought the pandemic through until the end of the year, renewed with the support of charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Thanks to the efforts of the global community, the frequency of cholera cases had reduced drastically by the February of 2017, and had all but halted by the end of April. As of April 26th, 2017, the 4 months of terror had claimed more than 125 Yemeni lives, and had torn apart hundreds of families.
But whatever the case, the worst had come to pass! The whole country breathed a sigh of relief. But fate had other plans for Yemen.
April 27th marked the beginning of a fevered resurgence, spearheading the 605 deaths that were ultimately reported across May. Makeshift field hospitals were flooded with the terminally ill, and public health care was only offered to those who could pay for it. The decisive hands of several dozen kind-hearted volunteers would ultimately be unable to hold back the bacterial strain.
By the end of June, more than 1 300 deaths had been jointly reported by the WHO and UNICEF…with an estimated 5 000 new cases occurring per day. The end of July has been pockmarked with nearly 2 000 deaths, and more than 360 000 infected.
But why has Yemen been suffering so brutally from a disease that should be, in theory, so easy to treat? How has the international community allowed just 2 months of resurgence to claim so many lives?
…Yemen is facing the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded in a single year
– Oxfam, British Charity
Since 2015, a civil war has been ravaging the country between two separate factions both claiming constitution over the Yemeni government. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Houthi allies have clashed repeatedly against the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, supported by a Saudi-led coalition and the United States military. More than 16 000 people have been killed in the fighting.
How does this tie in to the cholera outbreak? Apparently, there is more than enough proof to claim that the Saudis have been guilty of unleashing the pandemic upon the country!
The Saudi-led coalition has carried out dozens of airstrikes against Houthi militia positions, from the rebel-held city of Taiz to the capital of Sana’a. In January alone, a water desalination plant in the city of Mokha was utterly destroyed following a strike, cutting off more than a million civilians from access to clean water.
Then in April, the entire sewer system of Sana’a stopped working due to the crazed bombings. Can it be a co-incidence that the cholera outbreak erupted only 10 days after?
In the absence of sanitation systems, cholera is not just hard to treat – its virtually impossible. The entire populace is relying on the ancient wells and taps fueled by the central water source, and the destruction of the sewer system means that contaminated water is flowing through the country.
In just 2 months, cholera has spread to every part of the country. The coalition only compounds the problem. The airstrikes have decimated nearly half the health care centers in Yemen – at least 270 of them…and close to 15 million people have absolutely no access to treatment. It is likely, however, that the Saudis have recognized their role in this nightmare.
On the 23rd of June, the country authorized more than 66 million dollars in donation for the humanitarian operations in Yemen.
…The panel considers that some of the attacks may amount to war crimes
– United Nations Security Council
The Saudi Arabians, ever so eager to maintain their influence over the Bal Ab-Mandal Strait in its critical importance for oil trade, the coalition has blockaded key Yemeni ports, citing the need to protect them from Houthi rebels. Well, this has only made it impossible for clean water, food and humanitarian aid supplies to get into the country.
Even worse, the country has declared its intent to blockade Al Hudaydah, the largest and most significant port city of the country. Amnesty International has gone as far as saying that Saudi Arabia is guilty of war crimes, and that the United States is standing by and quietly watching as its ally crushes a fellow Arab country.
Well? Can the United States really be held accountable for this? Considering the fact that the country has keenly kept its side of the agreement with the US-Saudi Arms Deal, it definitely seems as if something is amiss.
20 billion dollars to a country that commits war crimes, and then tries to play it off by throwing a bunch of Saudi Riyal at the affected countries. To what level are you going to stoop for solidifying military relations?
Whatever the case is, the situation is Yemen is progressively getting worse. Saudi Arabia appears to have developed a Multiple Personality Disorder as it alternately bombs Yemeni seaports, then donates money to them. And the United States is arousing third-degree suspicion by standing by in silence, ignoring the pleas of the Red Cross and the UN as they try to end the excesses of Saudi Arabia.
Given a few more months, the magnitude of life taken by cholera will only worsen. In fact, what stops the outbreak from spreading haplessly to neighboring countries?