06/05/2017, 17.53
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Vicar to S Arabia: Yemen’s “disastrous” situation, caught between war and cholera

According to WHO, almost 74,000 cases of cholera have been reported with more than 600 dead (40 per cent children). Up to 300,000 people are at risk. Every ten minutes a child under five dies. Health facilities are on the verge of collapse. Bishop Hinder calls for prayer and silent help for Christians and Muslims. It's hard to bring aid, but keep attention must be kept alive.

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – The situation in some parts of Yemen is "disastrous", although it is not possible at present to draw a full picture of the situation because "it is hard to go there and have credible information" based on facts unfiltered by propaganda, said Mgr Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (UAE, Oman and Yemen).

"Compared to other conflicts that seem more interesting” to the media, Yemen “is a forgotten nation” that “needs greater attention,” said the prelate who spoke to AsiaNews about the acute humanitarian emergency in the Arab country, devastated by almost 30 months of bloody war.

None of the parties involved in the war can be said to be "innocent", noted Mgr Hinder. "Violations" are perpetrated on both sides. In the end, it is the civilian population that pays the price, often forgotten and abandoned to itself, forced to face a "cholera emergency" as well.

Many powers are involved – including Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States – fighting in Yemen via proxies. None of them, however, "have an interest in being cast in bad light" and for this reason, a veil of silence seems to fall upon on the conflict far too often.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien is among those sounding the alarm. Yemen, he said, is facing "total social, economic and institutional collapse". Yemenis’ suffering was no coincidence, he added, but rather the fault of those involved and inaction by world powers.

What is worse, neither side has been willing to compromise, and "the call for peace . . . is still falling on deaf ears," noted UN envoy for Yemen, Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Since January 2015, Yemen has been fought over in a bloody civil war pitting the country’s predominantly Sunni leadership, led by former President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia, and Shia Houthi rebels, close to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began carrying out air strikes against the rebels, which the United Nations criticised because of the civilian casualties they provoked, including children.

So far, more than 8,000 people have died, more than 44,000 injured and 3 million displaced. Almost 19 million people (out of a population of 24 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance to varying degrees.

The conflict has brought almost seven million people to the brink of starvation. A child under the age of five dies every ten minutes, and more than 55 per cent of the country's medical and health facilities have become unusable.

Making matters worse, cholera has broken out in recent weeks, reaching the level of a real emergency. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 74,000 suspected cases have been reported since early April, with at least 605 dead, 40 per cent of whom are children.

If nothing is done, cholera cases could quadruple in the next month to 300,000, half of them children, with hospitals unable to meet demand.

"For Yemen,’” said Mgr Hinder, “I feel a silent sorrow that embraces both Muslims, who are 99 per cent of the population, as well as Christians, almost all foreigners, who have remained for a variety of reasons. Certainly, the conditions vary depending on the area of the country, but the difficulties and the sufferings touch everyone."

"I continue to pray for the people without special proclamations or announcements,” the prelate added. “My prayers are not only personal, but embrace the whole community. Recently, during a visit to an Abu Dhabi parish, I shared my intentions with the faithful, asking them to pray for peace in Yemen."

Some people and organisations have "offered financial and material aid, but distribution remains a problem," the apostolic vicar explained. “For now, we collect the offerings, waiting to see how we can deliver them and "relieve at least some of the sufferings.”

“We are ready to help, but the climate is difficult, and we have to move carefully.” The Church continues "its silent help through prayer, waiting for developments, including political ones after Qatar was excluded from the Arab coalition. The important thing is to not forget, to keep attention alive, and continue our spiritual mission of memory through prayer." (DS)

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