The worst global cholera outbreak: Yemen

The relentless fighting in poverty-stricken Yemen has brought yet another monstrous problem: the largest cholera epidemic ever recorded in world history

For almost two years now, an unrelenting war has been ravaging Yemen. The conflict began when an uprising forced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over the office to Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. However, a myriad of problems, including al-Qaeda attacks, corruption, unemployment and the continuing support of some military officers for the former president has caused serious problems for the new administration.

Consequently, the Houthi movement, supporting Yemen’s Shia minority attacked at a vulnerable time and manage to seize the control of northern Saada. When Houthis tried to take control of the entire country, Mr. Hadi fled abroad in March 2015. These developments led to a Sunni Arab coalition that received logistical and intelligence support from the US, the UK and France, to restore Mr. Hadi’s government. Two years have passed but despite relentless fighting, no end seems to be in sight. Although Hadi and his government returned from exile to live in a temporary home in Aden, the situation still persists.

Since the onset of the clashes, close to 5,000 civilians –a third of which are children- have been martyred, and 8,200 people were injured according to the United Nations. Two million people were internally displaced, 180,000 have left the country and a staggering 17 million people are considered food insecure. Moreover, close to 15 million have no access to safe drinking water or sanitation. Waste collection has stopped in almost all major cities. Furthermore, about 3.3 million children and pregnant women are malnourished. The food shortage is so dire United Nation describes it as ‘the world’s largest food security crisis.’

Nowadays, even a more menacing problem is threatening the already devastated country: a massive cholera outbreak. According to the World Health Organization, Yemen is experiencing an outbreak of ‘unprecedented scale.’ So much so, since the modern records began, more people in Yemen has gotten cholera in a single year than any other country in the world. In only a few months, 400,000 people have been infected and around 2,000 people have died as a result.  Children under 15 and people over 60 are especially at risk.

Cholera is a bacterial disease and can quickly turn fatal if untreated. Every year, 100,000 people around the world die from this preventable condition. Places with insufficient sanitation and water treatment are usually considered the most high-risk because the disease is usually contracted through contaminated water and food. Yemen’s basic public services have ceased to function due to relentless conflict and access to clean water has become almost impossible. Moreover, almost half of the medical facilities have been closed or destroyed by air strikes and there aren’t nearly enough health-care workers to alleviate the situation. All these problems contribute to the crushing spread of cholera.

Despite all the disastrous factors involved, taking immediate and effective precautions the top priority from now on. And it is certainly not the aid groups, or international organizations that should feel the sole responsibility in this respect. On the contrary, all the countries, all the leaders should work together to build a collective help effort so that fellow human beings -innocent children, babies, ladies, the elderly- of Yemen can be saved from their ordeal. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation can swiftly convene, raise funds and organize relief efforts. UN and WHO are already working in cooperation with many international aid organizations, but their efforts fall short. It is imperative that the aid and international donations increase and are well coordinated to get the necessary help to where it is needed the most. It should be remembered every passing day without a solution would mean more innocent children, more innocent people losing their lives.

That being said, as Muslims we should not forget the main point in the current ordeal the Yemenis are experiencing today is the sectarian hatred played. Why is there a sectarian divide among Muslims, when our Lord commanded us to unite as brothers and sisters and to love each other? For centuries, for generations, this artificial, meaningless, clueless hatred caused vast number of innocent lives and played into the hands of those that wished to see them weak. Yet, it is not late for the fragmented Muslims to take concrete steps to unite with the members of other sects. Instead of focusing on the differences, they should join forces as one big nation putting forth their commonalities. Once this is realized, the tide will shift and the picture will change very rapidly; and everyone will be amazed how things can be rebuilt with solidarity, no matter how fierce the previous destruction was. It’s high time that this rebuilding starts.

Adnan Oktar's piece in Al Bilad

2017-09-04 17:09:03

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