Yemen cholera outbreak called worst in modern history: 815,000 cases

by WorldTribune Staff, October 13, 2017

More than 815,000 people in Yemen this year have been infected with cholera – including 600,000 children – making it the worst epidemic of the disease in modern history, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global Health Observatory said on Oct. 11.

The disease has spread faster than any recorded case of cholera, the WHO said.

Yemen topped 815,000 cases in just six months. / UNICEF photo

Since April 27, the WHO reported 815,314 cases of cholera in Yemen and 2,156 deaths.

Yemen topped 815,000 cases in just six months. Haiti reported over 800,000 cases of cholera over a seven-year span.

“Cholera has been around in Yemen for a long time, but we’ve never seen an outbreak of this scale or speed,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen.

Yemen has been gripped in conflict since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa, driving out the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

“It’s what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need,” Kirolos said.

“There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation. All parties to the conflict must take responsibility for the health emergency we find ourselves in.”

According to the WHO, some 4,000 cases of cholera are reported daily in Yemen, the majority of those infected being under the age of 18. About 25 percent of those infected and 16 percent of those who die are under the age of 5.

Children with acute malnutrition are at least three times more likely to die from cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases, the WHO said.

“The tragedy is that both malnutrition and cholera are easily treatable if you have access to basic healthcare,” Kirolos said. “But hospitals have been destroyed, 30,000 public sector health workers haven’t been paid for almost a year, and the delivery of vital aid is being obstructed.”

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