Saudi crown prince donates $66 million to fight Yemen cholera epidemic

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sits during an allegiance pledging ceremony in Mecca, Saudi Arabia June 21, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has donated $66.7 million to combat a cholera epidemic in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting in a war blamed for causing a humanitarian disaster.

The donation by Prince Mohammed bin Salman went to the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization (WHO), as requested by the organizations, a statement by the Saudi ministry of culture and information said.

It would help them “respond effectively to the cholera situation in Yemen, through a combination of water, sanitation and healthcare activities”, it said.

The number of suspected cases of the disease, which is caused by the contamination of water or food by faeces, reached 179,548 by June 20, with 1,205 deaths, according to the WHO.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien has described the cholera outbreak as a “man-made catastrophe” caused by the warring sides in Yemen’s civil war and their international backers.

The country has suffered an economic collapse in two years of fighting which has left 19 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 3 million and ruined much of its infrastructure.

As defense minister, Prince Mohammed is regarded by diplomats and analysts as a prime mover behind the Saudi decision to take military action in Yemen.1

The exiled Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is trying to roll back gains made by the Iran-aligned Houthi group which controls most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

Reporting by Rania El Gamal; editing by Andrew Roche