London: As war-torn Yemen grapples with a famine that threatens to kill 7 million people, as it also tries to cope with an unprecedented outbreak of cholera, Saudi Arabia and its allies are stepping up bombardment of their impoverished neighbour that has already killed more than 12,000 people and has devastated the country's infrastructure.
Saudi warplanes reportedly struck a health center treating cholera patients in the country's extreme northwest on Saturday.
The attack killed and injured a number of people at the facility in the Sa'ada Province, Yemen's al-Masirah television network reported, citing the province's health authority.
The attack came at a time when "less than 45 percent" of medical facilities in the country were functioning, according to UN envoy to Yemen.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations envoy to the country of 27 million, warned the Security Council on May 31st that Yemen is heading toward "total collapse" and that unprecedented disaster would ensue if the country's lifeline, the port city of Hodeidah ("Al Hudayah" in Arabic) comes under attack.
The bulk of food and medical supplies to Yemen go via this strategically important port at the entrance of the Red Sea near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
Cheikh Ahmed called for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further loss of life and the destruction of vital infrastructure, but admitted the contestants in the civil war were far from reaching an agreement because of the unwillingness to compromise.
"An agreement on Hodeidah should be just a first step towards a national cessation of hostilities and renewed discussion of a comprehensive agreement. Yet even serious negotiations of these first steps have been slow to start," he told the Security Council.
Emergency Relief Coordinator and Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien blamed the international community for the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen that since the beginning of May includes a sharp increase in the number of cholera cases in the country.
According to UNICEF, almost 65,000 Yemenis are now suffering from the deadly disease, with 10,000 new cases reported over the past 72 hours alone.
UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere voiced his concern that cholera cases could double every two weeks -- to 130,000 and then about 300,000 cases -- unless more aid is delivered.
Cappelaere said in an interview with The Associated Press that 70,000 suspected cases of cholera had been reported in the past month in 19 of Yemen's 22 provinces.
Meritxell Relano, another UNICEF Representative in Yemen, said the situation in Yemen is "teetering on the verge of disaster. Over 27 million Yemenis are staring at an unforgiving humanitarian catastrophe."
Cappelaere warned that the outbreak might "spread beyond Yemen" and perturb all states neighboring Yemen where a Saudi war is now in its third year.
Cappelaere said the outbreak is the latest horror faced by Yemeni children alongside growing starvation. "Yemen is one of the worst places in the world to be a child," he said.
"It is sad today, but we hope the cholera outbreak will be the turning point in turning people's attention to Yemen," he said. "Cholera is not going to be stopped by any border."
Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, backed by the US, began a military campaign against Yemen to reinstall its former government in March 2015. The war has killed over 12,000 civilians since then.
The invasion has been compounded by a Saudi blockade of the country.
"Yemen has one of the world's highest number of acutely malnourished children. Public services are on the brink of collapse," the UNICEF warned, saying, "Anyone with a heart for children cannot let the situation in Yemen continue!"
Attempts at ceasefire have all failed so far on the back of repeated Saudi violations.