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Cholera cases soar in Yemen, now on the brink of famine

04 August 2017


Thirsty: a man drinks water which he collected from a public tap amid a cholera outbreak in Sana’a

Thirsty: a man drinks water which he collected from a public tap amid a cholera outbreak in Sana’a

THE cholera outbreak in Yemen is worsening: there have been 425,000 suspected cases in the past three months, and 1900 deaths, so far, from the disease.

The outbreak is on an “unprecedented scale” the World Health Organisation said, and charities are warning that the number of cases could exceed 600,000 by the end of the year, becoming the highest number ever recorded in a year.

More than a million children under the age of five are living in areas where there are high levels of infection, the charity Save the Children has warned. Children are a high proportion of both new cases, and of deaths: 32 per cent of recorded deaths are of children aged under 15.

The disease is spreading rapidly owing to the collapse of basic public services, including clean water, and malnutrition. More than half of all health facilities have closed as a result of air strikes and fighting, and the arrival of the rainy season is forecast to make the situation worse.

Yemen, which has suffered two years of war, is now on the brink of famine: more than 60 per cent of the country is at risk of starvation. Two million children are acutely malnourished and therefore more susceptible to catching cholera (News, 20 June).

Some 5000 Yemenis are contracting the disease each day, the majority of them children and the elderly, UN figures suggest.

The UN has called for the international community to “redouble” its support for the people of Yemen. “If we fail to do so, the catastrophe we have seen unfolding before our eyes will not only continue to claim lives, but will scar future generations and the country for years to come,” it said.

The Methodist charity All We Can launched its appeal for East Africa earlier this year. Donations have exceeded £450,000, but more is urgently needed, it says.

The charity’s humanitarian-aid manager, Jason Snuggs, said: “The country is struggling to contain the disease. In addition to the burden of widespread food insecurity, and a weak health system, this increased risk of disease is putting many more lives in jeopardy.”

The civil war broke out in 2015 between forces loyal to the exiled President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is backed by the Saudis, and Houthi rebels.

The Archdeacon in the Gulf, the Ven. Bill Schwartz, said that Christ Church in Aden, where the Christian community is centred, was running an eye clinic. He said that the cholera problem in Aden was negligible, and health programmes in that area were still effective.

He went on, however: “The cholera outbreak is located where there is no functioning government at all. Unfortunately, that is a very large part of the country.”

Al Jazeera reported that the Saudi-led coalition was blocking fuel deliveries to UN planes bringing in humanitarian aid to the rebel-held capital, Sana’a.

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