Fight for Hodeidah Could Raise Risk of Disease, Famine

WFP-chartered ship offloads relief supplies at Hodeidah (image courtesy WFP)

By The Maritime Executive 07-26-2018 05:03:03

Relief agencies and charities are warning that the ongoing fight for the port of Hodeidah is raising the risk of famine and cholera for Yemen's civilian population.

"[Hodeidah] could become ground zero for a new outbreak of the highly contagious disease," warned Save the Children. An outbreak could be "devastating for an estimated 350,000 people who have not yet fled," the group said. Children, the elderly and those who are already in poor health would be especially vulnerable. 

3,000 cases of cholera were reported across Yemen in the first week of July, the highest weekly level since the beginning of 2018. Fighting and trenching have led to damage to sewer pipes and water lines, and water treatment plants have also been hit in the ongoing battle for the city. Limited access to clean water could raise the risk of the disease's spread. 

Aid groups have also reported that flows of relief supplies into Hodeidah have been delayed, due in part to cargo inspection procedures imposed by the Saudi-backed coalition supporting Yemen's government. Shipments continue to flow, but Save the Children CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt alleged that the relief effort has been controlled for strategic purposes. "Food and aid have been used as weapons of war and children are paying the price. They are severely malnourished and don’t have access to basic supplies like food, clean drinking water and medicine," she said in a statement. 

The U.N. World Food Programme says that four out of every ten children under the age of five now suffer from malnourishment in Yemen, satisfying one of the several qualifications required for a formal declaration of "famine." Any port closure due to fighting at Hodeidah - the main port of entry for Yemen's food supply - could exacerbate a tenuous situation, WFP has warned.