Yemen’s Cholera Outbreak


By Minos-Athanasios Karyotakis

In nearly a month, about 1,000 people have died in Yemen because of cholera and humanitarian organizations are talking about an uncontrollable epidemic due to the civil war that broke out in the country over the past two years. “The cholera outbreak in Yemen continues to spread at an alarming speed. Over 124,000 cases have been recorded – almost half of them are children”, explained Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

The civil war in Yemen broke out around mid-2015 and continues to this day. The conflict arose because of the two factions, who, together with their allies, want to take over the government of the country. On the one side there are the Southern Autonomists and those who remain loyal to the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi government, while Ansar Allah or Houthis and those who are loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are on the opposite side. At the same time, al-Qaeda, which alongside with the Islamic State has launched attacks, is also involved in the conflict.

The aforementioned conflict resulted in confirming the outbreak of cholera by the country’s health authorities on October 6, 2016. The Ministry of Public Health and Population had announced that of the 25 suspected cases of diarrhea, 11 were indeed cholera cases, with UNICEF requesting additional funding of US $3.2 million to address this difficult situation. Over the years, the cholera cases began to rise. Subsequently from April 27 to June 4, 2017, there were 84,422 suspected cases of cholera and 681 deaths in 19 of the country’s 23 governorates. Nowadays, according to the international non-governmental organization, Save the Children, at least one child is infected every minute, and more than 30 people die every day. “The cholera outbreak is overwhelming what remains of Yemen’s conflict-battered health system. Hospitals and treatment centres are struggling to cope with the large number of patients coming in from across the country. Medicines and intravenous fluids are quickly running out”, said Meritxell Relaño.

The organizations that are acting in the region are considering launching a mass vaccination campaign because they do not believe that health conditions and water purity, which are the major causes for the spread of cholera, can be improved in short term. However, there is a huge debate about the effectiveness of this effort due to Yemen’s prevailing disastrous conditions and the extent of the spread of the disease, as it is believed that the current situation in the country is one of the worst outbreaks of cholera reminding the one that erupted after the earthquake of Haiti in 2010.

This article was published in the weekly newspaper of Greece “Η Εποχή”.

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