America is Helping Cholera Spread in Yemen

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America is Helping Cholera Spread in Yemen

Saudi Arabia and America are still hurting Yemen, and the man-made crisis there only continues to grow. There are 17 million people in that desperately poor country, and the axe is above their head. We helped put it there.

The Post reports that hunger and cholera are redoubling their efforts in Yemen:

Today, the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached half a million and nearly 2,000 people have died, the WHO recently reported. It is now the largest cholera epidemic in the world. Only a few years ago, the waterborne disease had been nearly eradicated in Yemen.

We are now over two years into the civil war inside Yemen. The battle is a proxy conflict, fought by Saudi Arabia with extensive American and United Arab Emirate support.

As Foreign Policy notes:

Saudi Arabia and its allies, equipped with American-built aircraft and precision-guided rockets, have prosecuted one of the most advanced airpower campaigns against one of the world’s poorest countries. But the Saudi-led coalition’s overwhelming military superiority has brought them no closer to victory. Instead, it has furthered Yemen’s political fragmentation, deepened a humanitarian crisis that has brought the country to the brink of famine, and fed widespread public resentment in response to high civilian casualties, according to a confidential U.N. report reviewed by Foreign Policy.

Newsweek picks up the thread:

The U.S. support for Saudi Arabia—which includes arms sales, refueling of aircraft and supplying intelligence—has long been controversial. Rights groups have repeatedly accused the kingdom of targeting civilians, notably through airstrikes on schools and hospitals.

And now we have a new aggressor. Cholera.

Cholera draws the moisture out of the body, leaving the sufferer with chronic diarrhea, dying without medical attention. A bacterium named Vibrio cholerae is at work. The tiny invade is shaped like a comma. It takes up residence and drains your body of moisture, like a man turning a vise on an orange. You vomit, and liquid pours from both ends of your body, and in the end there is nothing left for the sickness to take.

In his book The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson recounts the 1854 cholera epidemic of London. He recounts what it felt like to submit to cholera, using one of its first sufferers, Mr. G:

Sometime on Wednesday, it’s likely that the tailor at 40 Broad, Mr. G, began to feel an odd sense of unease, accompanied by a slightly upset stomach. The initial symptoms themselves would be entirely indistinguishable from a mild case of food poisoning. But layered over those physical symptoms would be a deeper sense of foreboding. Imagine if every time you experienced a slight upset stomach you knew that there was an entirely reasonable chance you’d be dead in forty-eight hours. Remember, too, that the diet and sanitary conditions of the day — no refrigeration; impure water supplies; excessive consumption of beer, spirits, and coffee — created a breeding ground for digestive ailments, even when they didn’t lead to cholera. Imagine living with that sword of Damocles hovering above your head — every stomach pain or watery stool a potential harbinger of imminent doom.

Cholera, Johnson wrote, had killed in the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. But the Industrial Age meant new fears. Death knocking on your windows and rattling your walls. How soon? Not long. Twenty-four hours, sometimes twelve:

All that history would have weighed like a nightmare on Mr. G, as his condition worsened on Thursday. He may have begun vomiting during the night and most likely experienced muscle spasms and sharp abdominal pains. At a certain point, he would have been overtaken by a crushing thirst. … Mr. G would have been terribly aware of his fate, even as he battled the physical agony of the disease. One of cholera’s distinctive curses is that its sufferers remain mentally alert until the very last stages of the disease, fully conscious both of the pain that the disease has brought them and the sudden, shocking contraction of their life expectancy. The Times had described this horrifying condition several years before in a long feature on the disease: “While the mechanism of life is suddenly arrested, the body emptied by a few rapid gushes of its serum, and reduced to a damp, dead… mass, the mind within remains untouched and clear, — shining strangely through the glazed eyes, with light unquenched and vivid, — a spirit, looking out in terror from a corpse.” By Friday, Mr. G’s pulse would have been barely detectable, and a rough mask of blue, leathery skin would have covered his face. His condition would have matched this description of William Sproat from 1831: “countenance quite shrunk, eyes sunk, lips dark blue, as well as the skin of the lower extremities; the nails. …. livid.”

As the New Yorker once pointed out, in the modern age, “Cholera is now remarkably easy to treat: the key is to quickly provide victims with large amounts of fluids and electrolytes. That simple regime can reduce the fatality rate to less than one per cent.”

The number of cholera cases has climbed form 1,360 on May 8 to an estimated 494,000 by August 13, according to Oxfam. The earliest records of cholera in Yemen begin in 1949. This would be the largest outbreak in nearly seventy years.

Experts have warned the great powers that extending war in Yemen would come with grievous consequences. Those consequences have arrived. Over ten thousand people have died since 2015, when Saudi Arabia began to fight the Houthi rebels.

Per Gizmodo:

With the country in turmoil, cholera began to rear its ugly head in October 2016, but the epidemic escalated rapidly in April 2017 when the waterborne disease began infecting an estimated 5,000 people per day. Cholera is now spreading like wildfire on account of deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, and because of disruptions to the country’s water supply. It’s not a coincidence that the outbreak really got going after April 17, when the sewage systems in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a stopped working.

Why is Yemen invisible to the West? Why do we pretend it doesn’t exist? Gizmodo continues:

Millions of the country’s residents are now cut off from clean water. Making matters worse, waste collection has ground to a halt in most major cities. The collapsing health system can’t cope, with more than half of all health facilities shut down due to damage, destruction, or lack of funds, according to the WHO. Medicines are in short supply, and the country’s 30,000 critical healthcare workers haven’t been paid in nearly a year.

As the Independent notes, the World Health Organization has called upon the conscience of the world to make salve this suffering:

We can still reverse the tide of this outbreak – and the enormous humanitarian crisis on which it feeds. We call now on the international community, and especially those with the power and the ability to bring pressure to bear on both sides of the conflict, to help bring an end to the suffering – by bringing an end to the conflict.

By “those with the power and the ability,” they are speaking to Riyadh—which is to say, to Riyadh’s bosses in Washington. And what does Washington have to say about it? As The Guardian tells it:

Two US Senators, the Republican Rand Paul and the Democrat Chris Murphy, understand full well the implications and have been trying to halt the weapons sales. … the Trump administration and the majority of US senators have failed to heed their call. On 13 June, their resolution to stop the Saudi sale of precision-guided munitions was narrowly defeated by a 53-47 vote. The vote broke down mainly along party lines, with four Republicans and five Democrats breaking ranks. It also broke down along another divide: peace and humanitarian aid groups v the Trump administration, lobbyists for the Saudi government and the weapons industry. … “I am embarrassed that people are talking about making a buck while 17 million people are threatened with famine,” he said.

We claim to be for human rights. Here is as clear an issue as we could ever want. This is no bolt from the blue, no tsunami or meteor from the sky. The cholera killing Yemen is a stoppable, preventable, avoidable plague made by the Treasuries of the United States and its best friend, the House of Saud. The question is not what you buying with that money. Rather, what are you selling by refusing to stop it? We need to stop helping Saudi Arabia kill Yemen. Cholera drains the body, but not the soul. That takes another process altogether, and together with the Saudis, we have perfected it.

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