Yemen cholera cases could hit 300000 within six months

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 19, 2017

The cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed 209 people in recent weeks with 17,200 suspected cases across the war-torn country, the United Nations children's agency said Wednesday.

"The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented", World Health Organization country representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria told reporters in Geneva by phone from Yemen, warning that a quarter of a million people could become sick by the end of the year.

The UN has warned that 17 million people - some two-thirds of the population - are at imminent risk of starvation in Yemen.

Numerous victims are children, and experts say there could be as many as 300,000 cases within six months.

Cholera is normally contracted by consumption of water and food contaminated by human faeces.

Yemen's conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 40,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO.

This is the second outbreak of cholera in less than a year in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country in the grip of a war between government forces, which are backed by an Arab coalition, and Houthi fighters.

"The population is using water sources that are contaminated", Zagaria said, referring to the lack of electricity, which subsequently led to the malfunction of water pumping stations as well as a damage to sewer systems.

But the epidemic could not be addressed without ensuring that healthworkers were paid, he said, after seven months of no public sector salary payments because of a central bank crisis. But such numbers were too few, and the World Health Organization will release an emergency response plan in the next 48 hours, Zagaria said.

He also called for providing Yemeni authorities with needed financial resources to make the necessary infrastructure repairs in order to halt the spread of the disease.

He also recommended that efforts be directed towards treating water sources, repairing the sewers system and raising awareness through different methodologies including community mobilisation.

"You can understand that with this number the price that we will pay in terms of lives will be extremely, extremely high".

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