Abdullatif al-Washall, a Sana’a-based journalist, says the siege has made epidemics such as cholera and malaria sweep Yemen, worse than the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking in an interview with FNA, Abdullatif al-Washall said, “Diseases previously eradicated or at least controlled, like cholera and dengue fever, have returned in Yemen with vengeance… Cholera for example, a medieval disease, has infected nearly 2.5 million Yemenis since the Saudis launched their war.”
He also said to weaponize diseases and famine against Yemenis, “the Saudi-led coalition routinely bombs hospitals, water treatment plants, factories, food storage, and any other vital pieces of civilian infrastructure”.
Abdullatif Yahya al-Washall is a Sana’a-based Yemeni journalist. He hosts radio programs, and files reports for international TV channels from Sana’a.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Q: How do the Yemenis face the coronavirus outbreak?
A: Yemen was already facing the world’s worst manmade humanitarian crisis before COVID-19 struck due to the Saudi-imposed and US-supported blockade and siege. Our healthcare system lacked adequate supplies, staff, and infrastructure even to handle the most basic medical needs, especially for at-risk patients like pregnant women, elders, and those with chronic illnesses. Prior to COVID-19, Yemen had already dealt with multiple epidemics under our crippled healthcare system. Cholera for example, a medieval disease, has infected nearly 2.5 million Yemenis since the Saudis launched their war. Thousands died from this extremely preventable and treatable disease and over half of all deaths are children. The 2,000 or so COVID-19 infections are but a drop in the bucket compared to other epidemics we face like cholera, dengue fever, malaria, etc.
However, that has not to whitewashed coronavirus’s devastating impact on Yemen. Whereas the rest of the world can say the COVID-19 related death rate is less than 1% of all infected, over a quarter of all Yemenis infected with COVID-19 have succumbed to the illness. Even supplying adequate clean water for handwashing presents a challenge because the US-Saudi coalition routinely bombs water projects. And if someone requires hospitalization, may God help them because our hospitals do not have supplies or staff to treat them. Widespread COVID-19 infection would be a gift to the US-Saudi coalition who has done everything possible to weaponize diseases and famine.
Q: There is a lack of face masks and sanitizers of all kind even in the West. How bad is the public access to medical support in Yemen?
A: Yemenis are reminded of our lack of medical equipment every day. Even prior to the war, our healthcare infrastructure was simple and had many unmet needs. The blockade and siege, however, have amplified the problem. Today, less than half of our hospitals and healthcare centers are open yet the number of people in need of medical treatment has multiplied 5x over, especially due to military attacks. A child in Yemen dies every ten minutes from preventable causes like malnutrition. A pregnant woman dies every two hours from lack of access to proper care. Thousands of dialysis, cancer, and diabetic patients cannot receive the treatment and supplies they desperately need. To top it off, over 50 thousand people injured in airstrikes and military bombardment cannot receive adequate treatment nor can they travel abroad for treatment due to the closure of the Sana’a International Airport.
The official UN figures on COVID-19 infection in Yemen are no doubt much smaller than the reality as well. Thousands of people cannot visit a testing site because they do not have gas for their vehicles. Others have died in their homes without testing or treatment. Again, many Yemenis, especially in rural areas, lack adequate water to wash their hands and prevent disease spread – much less masks, sanitizer, and other necessities.
Q: Aside from supplies needed to survive COVID-19 outbreak and infection, how do you evaluate the status of the health sector in Yemen?
A: The Yemeni people have faced multiple epidemics since the initial outbreak of the US-backed Saudi-led war against our country. Diseases previously eradicated or at least controlled, like cholera and dengue fever, have returned in Yemen with vengeance. Furthermore, over 22 million Yemenis out of a 29 million population face famine and require urgent humanitarian aid to survive. Yemenis have also suffered from widespread unemployment since the outbreak of the war as well. Important workers like medical staff, sanitation workers, teachers, and engineers have not received their public salaries in years. Private sector jobs are hard to come by so many families now rely on a single income or worse, none.
This is all by design as the US-Saudi coalition aims to weaponize famine and disease. That is why the Saudi-led coalition routinely bombs hospitals, water treatment plants, factories, food storage, and any other vital pieces of civilian infrastructure you can imagine. It is no surprise that the Saudi coalition made a point to bomb water treatment facilities during the deadliest peaks in the cholera outbreak. The coalition of aggression is also detaining over a dozen aid ships filled with fuel and vital supplies to keep our healthcare system running. It is all part of the plan to weaponize illness and starvation. The illegal blockade, siege, and bombings are wholly to blame.