- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The heads of three United Nation humanitarian organizations traveled to Yemen and met with warring leaders in Aden and Sanaa, issuing a plea to both them to allow humanitarian assistance into the war-torn country and find a peaceful solution to a nearly two-year civil war.

Their visit comes at the peak of Yemen’s cholera outbreak, the most immediate and threatening crisis to the health of Yemenis among other devastation, which includes 60 percent of the population unsure where there next meal will come from.

“This is the world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley and World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a joint statement Wednesday.

An analysis by Reuters found that United Nations intervention efforts curbing the spread of the disease are beginning to take root after the number of suspected cholera cases peaked at almost 400,000 this month.

Cholera is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae and is spread through contaminated water sources. Yemen’s nearly two-year civil war — between Iranian-baked rebel Houthis in the North of the country and a regime supported by Saudi Arabia, Gulf nations and the U.S. in the south — has devastated water and sanitation infrastructure, leading to the unprecedented spread of the bacteria.

Cholera causes acute diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration and — coupled with a population weakened by malnutrition and with little access to health care — has led to at least 1,900 deaths.

WHO data puts the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance at 18.8 million and 14.8 million in need of health services — 60 percent of the population do not know where their next meal will come from, the organization estimates.

At least 8,176 people have been killed and 46,335 injured, the WHO estimates.

In response to the cholera outbreak, U.N. organizations have scaled up their efforts and delivered tens of tons of medical supplies to the country.

They also credit at least 16,000 local volunteers who have gone door-to-door to educate people in how to prevent the contraction of Yemen, and praised the 30,000 Yemeni health workers who continue to treat patients despite 10 months without a salary.

“We have asked the Yemeni authorities to pay these health workers urgently because, without them, we fear that people who would otherwise have survived may die,” the leaders continued. “As for our agencies, we will do our best to support these extremely dedicated health workers with incentives and stipends.”

Nabila Al-Olofi, a nurse working in the Azal Health Center in Sanaa, told the WHO that she and other nurses continue to work without salaries because the needs of the patients are too great.

“Every day, we receive severe cases that come with complicated conditions, but we manage to save the lives of most of them. Sometimes, a new severe case arrives while we’re so busy treating another case,” Ms. Al-Olofi, told the organization.

“Yes, we have no regular salaries as nurses, but saving lives is our biggest gain,” she added.

Ninety-nine percent of sick Yemenis who reach heath services survive, the WHO said, but added the situation remains dire.

“Thousands are falling sick every day. Sustained efforts are required to stop the spread of disease. Nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s children need immediate humanitarian assistance,” the U.N. leaders said.

The humanitarian leaders said they issued their plea to the warring leaders to allow in humanitarian assistance.

“When we met with Yemeni leaders — in Aden and in Sanaa — we called on them to give humanitarian workers access to areas affected by fighting. And we urged them — more than anything — to find a peaceful political solution to the conflict,” the U.N. leaders said.

They further called on the international community to redouble its efforts in supporting the people of Yemen.

“If we fail to do so, the catastrophe we have seen unfolding before our eyes will not only continue to claim lives but will scar future generations and the country for years to come,” they said.

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