The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached 101,820 and killed 798 people since 27th April, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
Vibrio cholerae. Credit: ktsdesign/Shutterstock.com
The worst affected have been children and older people, with those age under 15 years accounting for 46% of cases and those older than 60 years accounting for 33% of fatalities.
Oxfam has estimated that the epidemic is now claiming one person’s life every hour.
WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are focusing on Yemen’s cholera hotspots to try and stop further spread of the disease.
"Stamp out cholera in these places and we can slow the spread of the disease and save lives,” says Nevio Zagaria, head of Yemen’s WHO office. “At the same time, we’re continuing to support early and proper treatment for the sick and conducting prevention activities across the country.”
Stamping out the epidemic is going to be a difficult challenge. The country’s health, water and sanitation systems have almost been destroyed after more than years of war between the Houthi movement and government forces. Less than half of Yemen’s health facilities are functioning and medical supplies are being imported at a third the rate they were before March 2015.
Damage caused by violence has led to 14.5 million individuals lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The conflict has left 18.8 million needing humanitarian care and around 7 million at risk of famine.
Today, life for children in Yemen is a desperate struggle for survival, with cholera, malnutrition and the relentless violence constantly sounding a death knell at their doorsteps.”
Meritxell Relano, UNICEF
WHO, UNICEF and other organizations are taking action to respond to the latest outbreak and have provided water tanker filling stations, restored water treatment plants, provided household water treatments, chlorinated drinking water and rehabilitated water supplies to provide almost 3.5 million people across Yemen with water. Oral rehydration and diarrheal treatment centers are being supported and provided with medical supplies to screen and treat people.
Although donors have been generous in trying to provide funding for the response to the outbreak, more is still needed to provide healthcare, water and sanitation and more partners in the field are needed across the country.
Director of Oxfam in Yemen, Sajjad Mohammed Sajid, warned that the epidemic is set to be one of the worst this century if it is not immediately brought under control: "Cholera is simple to treat and prevent but while the fighting continues the task is made doubly difficult. A massive aid effort is needed now."