Cholera outbreak in Yemen kills 34
ADEN // An outbreak of cholera in Yemen has killed 34 people in one week and 2,000 others are suffering from the disease caused by contaminated food and water, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.
The outbreak is the second to hit the country since the civil war started more than two years ago and hospitals and aid agencies across the country are battling to treat those effected.
“We are very concerned that the disease will continue to spread and become out of control,” said Shinjiro Murata, Medicins Sans Frontiere’s head of mission in Yemen.
MSF said on Tuesday it had treated more than 780 cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea in Yemen since March 30. The worst affected areas are Hajja, Al Dhale and Taiz provinces.
The WHO has counted 1,360 cases of cholera since April 27, and the total number of cases since the beginning of the conflict is about 27,000, including 130 deaths, according to the UN health agency.
Six-year-old Saqr Al Thobhani has been receiving cholera treatment at Khlaifa Hospital in Al Turba area, 70km from Taez city, since last Wednesday.
“Saqr now is better than last week and now he seems to be recovering due to the treatment,” his mother Zainab told The National. “I thank the doctors here for their help and they paid the cost of medicines.”
Saqr, who has four siblings, lives near the rubbish dump of Al Turba market with his family.
They collect plastic bottles for sale to earn money to buy food, which could be how he contracted the disease, his doctors said.
Cholera is a bacterial infection which causes severe diarrhoea.
It is transmitted through contaminated food or water, and if not treated promptly, can kill up to 15 per cent of those affected in just a few hours, the UN children’s agency Unicef has warned.
Saqr is one of eight children receiving treatment for cholera at Khalifa hospital, said manager Abdurrahman Al Sabri.
“Not everyone in the rural areas can arrive at the hospital easily, so we heard about children dying from cholera [at home] because they could not come to the hospital in time,” he said.
“The main reason of the cholera is the shortage of water, which leads people to drink polluted water, the uncovered food and [lack of] personal cleanliness.”
The war in Yemen, which started after anti-government rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, has decimated the country. Health services have crumbled and the country is on the verge of famine.
According to the UN, a child under the age of five dies from preventable diseases every ten minutes in Yemen.
More than 14 million people in Yemen have no access to health services, WHO said in March, warning that transportation of medical personnel and medicine for the injured had become increasingly difficult.
“Hospitals these days are hardly working, without financing from the Yemeni government and they depend ... on doctors who work without salaries,” said Mr Al Sabri.
He said his hospital could not treat more than 20 cases of cholera a day.”
Yemen suffered from a cholera outbreak in October 2016, with the government warning at that time that it posed an increased health risk to the population especially children.
Mr Al Sabri warned that more new diseases may spread due to an accumulation of rubbish in the streets of Taez, Sanaa, and other northern provinces, as cleaners have been on strike since last week.
The accumulation of rain water may also lead to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, aggravating the suffering of the people.
Khalid Al Hagami, a professor of sociology in Taez University, said residents can also try to work out a solution for themselves.
“Residents can make campaigns to clean their streets and they can educate other people about the importance of cleanliness and the dangers of cholera that can carried by water and food.”
* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse
Updated: May 9, 2017 04:00 AM