WORLD

Why You Should Not Look Away From The Unfolding Disaster In Yemen

Kids for a start. 80 percent of Yemeni children need immediate aid.

28/07/2017 2:12 PM AEST | Updated 28/07/2017 2:13 PM AEST

CANBERRA -- It is a fair bet not many Australians have an immediate connection to Yemen. Do you know someone from there? Have you been? Do you know where it is on map?

Yemen is one of the Arab world's poorest countries and the Department of Foreign Affairs warns Australians not to go there. At all. And with very good reason.

AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni infant suspected of being infected with cholera receives treatment at Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa.

There have been two years of hostilities and whatever the cause -- it is ugly and you can read it here and watch it here and here, according to Al Jazeera -- the country's vital health, water and sanitation infrastructure fell apart long ago. Now Yemen's civilians are paying the price with their lives.

The magnitude of this disaster is nothing short of extraordinary. And catastrophic.

According to the UN's children's fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the country is experiencing the world's worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

It passed the 340,311 cholera cases in Haiti in 2011 a week ago, according to Oxfam.

Yemen, in the past three months alone, has recorded 400,000 cases of suspected cholera and nearly 1900 associated deaths.

What's cholera? It is a water-borne bacterial infection that is very rarely seen in developed countries and it is usually caused by poor sanitation. It is an inhumane way to die. A person's skin may turn bluish-gray from extreme loss of fluids. There are vaccines.

Nearly two million Yemeni children are acutely malnourished.

Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's children need immediate humanitarian assistance.

More than three million people have fled their homes.

There is an humanitarian effort going on. UNICEF, WFP and WHO say "more than 30,000 health workers haven't been paid their salaries in more than 10 months, but many still report for duty."

The agencies insist there is hope.

"More than 99 per cent of people who are sick with suspected cholera and who can access health services are now surviving."

It all seems so remote, but this is part of what is happening in Africa at the moment. It is the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, where up to 23 million people are at risk of starvation.

And we can't look away.

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