UN draws attention to epidemic in Yemen’s Taiz city

UN warns of an outbreak of dengue fever in Taiz as war between Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition blocks supply routes

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

The UN’s human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly has warned of the growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen’s third biggest southwestern city of Taiz after almost 100 civilians were killed in a fortnight amid a Saudi-led Arab coalition aerial campaign against Shiite Houthi militiamen.

Fifty-three civilians were killed on Aug. 21 when coalition airstrikes hit homes in the city, while another 42 civilians were killed by Houthi snipers throughout the given period, Pouilly told reporters.

"We are alarmed by the steep increase in the number of civil casualties in Taiz in recent weeks," Pouilly said, adding that Houthi rebels were blocking supply routes into the city while the coalition’s bombing of the Hodeidah port also prevents imports from reaching the city.

"We are also concerned about the near collapse of the health care system in Taiz where all six public hospitals are no longer operational due to the fighting," she said.

In total, over 800 people have been killed and 6,000 injured in Taiz since fighting broke out in the city in March, UN figures have stated.

Concerns are rising in the city over the spread of the mosquito-borne dengue fever which has increased to 421 cases as of last week, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a statement released on Aug. 31, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ala Alwan said, “We need protection and safety for all people working to control the worrying outbreak of dengue fever in Taiz, which includes support with residual spraying, health education of communities and distribution of other supplies.”

“With the ongoing insecurity and mass displacement of thousands of people, it is likely that the situation will deteriorate in the coming days, placing over 3.2 million people at additional risk,” WHO warned.

“All parties to the conflict must observe a ceasefire and demilitarize all hospitals and health facilities in Taiz, allow for the safe delivery of the supplies, implement measures to control the dengue outbreak, provide treatment and enable access to injured people and other patients.”

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Ezzeldin al-Asbahi said the government will “present a letter to the Security Council in New York and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva."

A coalition of Arab states allied with the Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have been bombing the Houthi insurgency since late March, in addition to running training programmes and dropping weapons for Yemeni fighters loyal to Hadi.

The UN previously declared the situation in Yemen to be a level-three humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, after about 80 percent of the country’s population fell into dire need of humanitarian aid.

Twenty million people in the country are in need of aid, 13 million are facing food shortages and 9.4 million are having difficulties accessing drinking water. UN monitors have put the civilian death toll from the war at over 2,000.  

TRTWorld and agencies