Biggest Cholera Outbreak in Yemen
A cholera outbreak continues to torment Yemen, and the number of cases is projected to reach 1 million by the end of this year, making it “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.”
Alexandre Faite, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, described the scale of the outbreak as “unprecedented” on Friday.
The escalating number of cases started in March this year and in July, 276,000 cases were recorded. However, the number of cases stands at about 750,000, a record.
Faite said, “Given this trend, we could reach up to 1 million by the end of the year.”
Since the start of the crisis, more than 2,100 Yemenis, around half of them children, have died from the disease as of September 13. The World Health Organization estimated that 5,000 people were being infected each day.
Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea. Infections are contracted by consuming food or water contaminated with the fecal bacteria Vibrio cholerae.
Blame it on Civil War
Many blamed the civil war that erupted on March 2015 as the major factor in the spread of the disease. The war destroyed the country’s health care system, devastated infrastructure and caused famine as well. In fact, the two and half years of civil war put seven million of the 27-million strong population on the brink of famine.
“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and it is getting even worse. More than two years of war have created ideal conditions for the disease to spread,” Nigel Timmins, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director, said in a statement.
Timmins added, “The war has pushed the country to the edge of famine, forced millions from their homes, virtually destroyed the already weak health services and hampered efforts to respond to the cholera outbreak.”
Health Care System Collapsing
The health system is at a breaking point, allowing cholera to balloon across the entire country.
The crisis is becoming even worse given that salaries for civil servants including health workers in public hospitals have not been paid for more than a year.
This grim situation is confirmed by Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen.
Kirolos said, “The tragedy is, both malnutrition and cholera are easily treatable if you have access to basic health care. But hospitals and clinics have been destroyed, government health workers haven’t been paid for almost a year, and the delivery of vital aid is being obstructed.”
Aid organisations are struggling to reach people in remote, recently hit areas. Military restrictions also caused delay in the delivery of aid. Less than half of the country’s medical centres are still functional, around 14.5 million people don’t have regular access to clean water, thus worsening the crisis.
Cholera caused severe dehydration and can be deadly within hours if not treated. But 80% of cholera cases can be treated and resolved with oral hydration salts if they are available. The disease is most common in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine.
The disease remains a global threat and is one of the key indicators of social development, according to WHO. While cholera no longer poses a threat to countries with high standards of hygiene, it remains a challenge in countries with limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.