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Sanaa, Yemen, 2005 © Charles Roffey

Will Yemen’s Cholera Outbreak Get Worse?

Hunger and disease are adding to Yemen’s death toll, leaving the war-torn country in a state of deep humanitarian crisis.

Since the cholera outbreak in October 2016, compounded by hunger and malnourishment, Yemen has been suffering a severe health crisis. Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection that causes profuse diarrhea, dehydration and shock that can kill in a matter of hours. The disease is sweeping the country and, according to the World Health Organization, has caused at least 471 deaths, with the total number of suspected cases currently nearing 52,000.

Over two years of war have depleted medical supplies and hospital funds. A broken health system, lack of sanitation and clean water, and a large proportion of the population facing famine have created a perfect storm for the disease that preys on the weak and hungry.

Treatment for cholera is relatively cheap and includes intravenous fluids and basic nutritional support. But the delivery of aid has been halted by both the Saudi blockade and Houthi rebels on the ground. With some 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, children and immunosuppressed subjects are most vulnerable to cholera. With hundreds of new cases arriving to hospitals each day, many patients are left without treatment.

This year, the United Nations has implemented a $2 billion aid program for Yemen, but it has only been less than 20% funded. Despite being a relatively simple illness to treat, without proper assistance and funding Yemen’s cholera outbreak is destined to get worse.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Charles Roffey