The Canadian government is under pressure to boost its political and humanitarian support for Yemen, where a record-level cholera outbreak threatens to worsen the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
According to Oxfam, Yemen is facing the worst-ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single year, with more than 360,000 suspected cases in the past three months alone. That tops the previous annual record of 340,311 cholera cases in Haiti in 2011.
Yemen's ambassador to Canada, Jamal Abdullah al-Sallal, called on Canada to help resolve the crisis in the Middle Eastern country, which has dealt with more than two years of brutal war.
"We appeal to the international community in general and Canada in particular to do its best to resolve the crisis; to help the Yemen Government to end the coup, restore peace and participate in the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Yemen, in particular the health sector, water and sanitation," Mr. al-Sallal said in an e-mail statement to The Globe and Mail.
In February, the United Nations issued a $2.1-billion (U.S.) appeal to the international community for the Yemen crisis but, as of July 11, it had only received one-third of that amount. Canada has provided more than $34-million this year in life-saving assistance to address the needs of conflict-affected people in Yemen, including those impacted by the cholera outbreak. It also recently created a famine-relief fund to respond to humanitarian crises in 10 countries, including Yemen, through which the government matched donations made to registered Canadian charities. The government will announce the total amount raised by the fund in the coming weeks.
But advocates say more support is needed to respond to the conflict in Yemen, which has been declared the world's largest humanitarian crisis by the United Nations.
Citing Canada's response to the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, Mr. Al-Sallal said he is hopeful the federal government will "be compelled by the same spirit of urgency to assist in international efforts to contain this devastating medical catastrophe." Since 2010, Canada has contributed over $50-million to help respond to the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development, did not say if Canada would set aside more money for Yemen, but said the government is closely monitoring the situation.
"The government of Canada is deeply concerned with this situation in Yemen and in particular with the cholera outbreak," she said. "We need to keep this top of mind."
Yemen has been engulfed in war since March, 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition began bombing the country in an effort to force out the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who had overthrown the government. After more than two years of war, the sewage system in the capital of Sanaa failed in April; cholera hit soon after and spread to other parts of the country. Oxfam fears the total number of people infected could eventually rise to more than 600,000.
Oxfam Canada humanitarian program manager Victoria Hopkins said that in addition to more humanitarian resources, Canada can help find a political solution to the war in Yemen. "There's a role for Canada to play on that front to find political solutions, to encourage a permanent ceasefire, to look at peace agreements that are inclusive."
Oxfam Canada also called for an investigation into how Saudi Arabia is using its weapons and combat vehicles in Yemen, including Canadian-made light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) sold to the Saudis as a part of a controversial $15-billion arms deal. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes says there is no evidence to show that the Canadian-made combat vehicles have been used by the Saudis in Yemen. However, Canada has sold Saudi Arabia hundreds of light-armoured vehicles over the past 25 years and videos and photos appearing on social media since 2015 show Canadian-made machines being deployed in the conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Saudi embassy in Ottawa said in a statement that its only objective is to protect the Yemeni people and its government against the Houthis, adding it remains committed to a peaceful, diplomatic and multilateral solution.