Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Cholera in Yemen: Death by numbers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that the number of suspected cholera cases in war-battered Yemen this year hit the half a million mark.

According to the same report, released this week, around 2,000 people died since April’s outbreak. The international organisation says that the deadly waterborne disease infects an estimated 5,000 people per day, and is still spreading fast.

Yemen’s healthcare system was already acutely under-developed before the country was plunged into the current conflict, with barely enough doctors and hospital beds to meet national demand.

Now with the country’s ailing health infrastructure nearly destroyed, around 15 million people are unable to get basic healthcare, according to the new WHO report which deems Yemen’s cholera epidemic “the largest in the world”.

Compounding the problem is the country’s water shortages, which overall increased the risk of disease outbreak, especially in the countryside, and among children. Around 20 million Yemenis are struggling to get access to clean water. And diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malnutrition have become common as a result.

Yemen has already been water-stressed, with only 86 cubic metres of renewable water sources available per person per annum, according to the World Bank – far lower than the global average of 1,385 cubic metres per capita.

“Can you imagine a hospital without water? It is a desperate situation,” Marie Claire Feghali, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen, had told Nature Middle East.

“To save lives in Yemen today we must support the health system, especially the health workers,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, says. “The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer.”


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