Yemen: Cholera cases so far this year outstrip 2018 figures

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In the first six months of 2019, Yemen has seen more suspected cholera cases than in the whole of 2018, according to an international aid organisation.

A total of 439,812 suspected cholera cases were so far identified with some 203,000 children among those affected, Save the Children said.

At least 193 children have died this year from cholera-related illnesses, it added. The number of people dying was nine times as high as the same period last year.

Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, said disease outbreaks were “rife” in the war-torn country.

“The health system is under considerable stress, with only half of the health facilities functional while the rest of the facilities remain closed or are partially functional,” Kirolos said in a statement, adding cholera has become “endemic” in Yemen.

The ongoing rainy season is exacerbating the situation with flooding and downpours threatening to intensify the spread of the waterborne disease.

The years-long war in Yemen has impaired the country’s infrastructure for providing clean water and sanitation, leaving some 9.2 million children without access to safe water, Save the Children said.

The fluctuating availability of fuel, which limits the pumping of sewage and rubbish collection, has made many parts of Yemen a breeding ground for infectious diseases.

Malnourished children are especially vulnerable to cholera-related diseases because of their weak immune systems.

They are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera, while diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera are also a major contributor to malnutrition in Yemen. 

“As long as the conflict rages on, clean water systems are breaking down and funding of aid in Yemen remains too low. All we can do is try and keep as many children alive as possible,” Kirolos said.

The figures came as the United Arab Emirates on Monday said it was reducing the number of troops in war-torn Yemen and moving from a “military-first” strategy to a “peace-first strategy”.

UAE troops have fought as part of a Saudi-led military coalition against the Houthi rebels

The four-year conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians.

Fighting has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced and in need of aid.

War, famine and cholera: Is no one able to help Yemen?

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War, famine and cholera: Is no one able to help Yemen?

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