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UN health agency warns of new Yemen’s cholera surge after Saudi strikes hit medical facilities

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Yemen is likely to be struck by another “major wave” of cholera cases after a series of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia struck water facilities and medical infrastructure in the port city of Hudaydah.

According to Press TV, WHO’s Emergency Response Director, Peter Salama, during a press briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday, called for a three-day truce to allow vaccinations.

“We have had two major waves of cholera epidemics in recent years and unfortunately the trend that we have seen in recent days to weeks suggests that we may be on the cusp of the third major wave,” the official said,

“We are calling on all parties to the conflict to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and to respect the request of the international community for three full days of tranquility to lay down arms and to allow us to vaccinate the civilian population,” he added.

The warning came a day after a deadly airstrike by Saudi Arabia on Yemen’s largest hospital in Hudaydah, where WHO staff were preparing the cholera vaccination drive.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Salama explained that the vaccination drive is set to run from Saturday to Monday and is aiming to target more than 500,000 people.

Earlier on Friday, Lise Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, voiced shock at the strike on the al-Thawra hospital, saying it had put the cholera response at risk.

“This is shocking,” Grande said, adding, “Hospitals are protected under international humanitarian law. Nothing can justify this loss of life.”

Dozens were martyred after warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition hit a hospital and a fishing harbor in Hudaydah.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) also said Friday that hundreds of pregnant women in Hudaydah were at “extreme risk” of dying as it became harder to access care, with the maternal death rate likely to have doubled from its 2015 tally of 385 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The violence limits the agency’s access to the city, but it estimated 90,000 women were due to give birth there in the next nine months.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore also said in a statement the airstrikes earlier this week damaged a sanitation facility and a station that supplies most of the city’s water. “Attacks on water infrastructure jeopardize efforts to prevent another outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhea in Yemen.”

WHO said in July that the cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen had killed 1,500 people since late April.