By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warns conditions in Yemen are expected to worsen even if a political solution is reached to end more than three years of civil war that have killed or injured more than 65,000 people.
ICRC outgoing head of delegation in Yemen, Johannes Bruwer, has been posted in that country on and off for the past decade. He says he has seen a significant decline in conditions over that period.
He says he is happy that peace talks are taking place in Sweden and hopes for a breakthrough soon, so people can begin their road to recovery.
"At the moment, unfortunately, this is not yet happening, so we will have to see what comes in the coming months and prepare for the worst in Yemen, because the situation even if we have peace tomorrow will continue to be desperate at the best of times,” Bruwer said
Bruwer notes the United Nations estimates 2.9 million women and children are severely malnourished and at risk of death. He says 4 out of 5 people, or 22 million people, need international aid to survive. He says 14 million are on the verge of starvation.
He tells VOA the Yemeni people are so weakened by years of fighting and deprivation they are vulnerable to a number of life-threatening diseases.
"So, cholera, the epidemic still did not cease. We still have new cases on a daily basis,” Bruwer said. “It is much lower occurrence, but the potential is there for it to re-ignite into another big crisis. Now ... cholera, meningitis, measles — we are seeing a number of diseases re-emerging in Yemen in the general population today, so we are concerned about all of them."
The ICRC is not participating in the main peace negotiations. But it is heading a technical working group dealing with a possible prisoner exchange between the warring parties.
Bruwer says lists of prisoners reportedly have been drawn up and exchanged. However, the ICRC does not yet have any information on their content. He says between 5,000 and 8,000 names, some of different nationalities reportedly are on those lists.
He says it is likely to take several weeks before anything conclusive is worked out and the prisoner exchange can go ahead.