Tag Archives: Yemen’s

Yemen’s cholera outbreak now the worst in history as millionth case looms

The cholera epidemic in Yemen has become the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history, with a million cases expected by the end of the year and at least 600,000 children likely to be affected.

The World Health Organization has reported more than 815,000 suspected cases of the disease in Yemen and 2,156 deaths. About 4,000 suspected cases are being reported daily, more than half of which are among children under five, who account for a quarter of all cases.

The spread of the outbreak, which has quickly surpassed Haiti as the biggest since modern records began in 1949, has been exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition. While there were 815,000 cases of cholera in Haiti between 2010 and 2017, Yemen has exceeded that number in just six months.

Save the Children has warned that, at the current rate of infection, the number of cases will reach seven figures before the turn of the year, 60% of which will be among children. In July, the International Committee of the Red Cross predicted there would be 600,000 suspected cholera cases in the country by the end of the year.

Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, said an outbreak of this scale and speed is “what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need”.

Kirolos said: “There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation. All parties to the conflict must take responsibility for the health emergency we find ourselves in.”

More than two years of fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels has crippled the country, causing widespread internal displacement, the collapse of the public health system, and leaving millions on the brink of famine.


When I see a mother lose her baby because of cholera, it makes me so angry

Dr Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children

The crisis was exacerbated when sanitation workers whose salaries had gone unpaid went on strike. This meant garbage was left on the streets, which was then washed into the water supply. It is estimated that 19.3 million Yemenis – more than two-thirds of the population – do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

The government stopped funding the public health department in 2016, meaning many doctors and hospital staff have not received salaries for more than a year. Healthcare has since been provided mainly by international organisations, the efforts of whom have been hampered by the conflict.

The spread of the disease has nonetheless slowed. At the beginning of the most recent outbreak, in May this year, between 5,000 and 6,000 new cases were detected daily. That rate has since dropped to just under 4,000 a day. The mortality rate has also declined, from 1% at the beginning of the outbreak to 0.26% now.

“Whatever decline we’re seeing now is due to the heroic efforts of workers at the scene,” said Sherin Varkey, the officiating representative of Unicef Yemen.

Varkey said the situation would not be solved until there was peace in the country.

“There are no signals that give us any reason for optimism. We know that both parties to the conflict are continuing with their blatant disregard of the rights of children,” he said. “We’re at a cliff and we’re staring down and it is bottomless. There seems to be no hope.”

A worker is pictured in a government hospital’s drug store in Sana’a, Yemen


A worker is seen at a government hospital’s drug store in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Cholera should be easily treatable with oral rehydration salts and access to clean water. But Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children’s health adviser for the city of Hodeidah, said conditions in the country had made this very difficult.

Aldogani said: “All the NGOs are trying to increase the knowledge of how to prevent the disease, because it’s preventable, you have to boil the water. But if you don’t have money to buy gas, and you have to walk a long way to get the wood, how can you boil the water?”

Aldogani, who has been a doctor since 2010, said witnessing the suffering of her patients was deeply painful. “I saw one young man, he had cholera and severe dehydration. He was in a coma and he died in front of his mother. We tried our best, but he came too late and she was crying, and I cried. It makes me angry. When I see a mother lose her baby, especially a stillbirth, she waits for this baby for a long time and then she loses it because of cholera, it makes me so angry.

“The war is a big problem for us, it’s a wound. But with the cholera, you have the wound and you put salt in the wound. It hurts. I hope this war can be stopped. We need peace for the children of Yemen. Our situation before the war was not good, but it was not like this.”

Blame the Saudis for Yemen’s cholera outbreak – they are targeting the people | Jonathan Kennedy

Over the past four months, Yemen has been ravaged by a cholera outbreak that the UN has branded the worst in the world. About 7,000 new cases are reported daily – 436,625 have been recorded since the end of April – and already there have been more than 1,915 deaths.

The epidemic is one aspect of a broader humanitarian emergency in Yemen. Two-thirds of the population – 18.8 million people – require some form of emergency aid. Food production has collapsed and 4.5 million children and pregnant and lactating women are acutely malnourished. Only 45% of health facilities are functioning, and 14.8 million people lack access to basic healthcare. About the same number require assistance to access safe drinking water and sanitation.

Cholera, a bacterial infection, is spread by water containing contaminated faeces. It can be easily prevented and easily treated. Cholera first spread from the Ganges delta in 1817, and the resulting pandemics killed tens of millions of people across the world over the 150 years. Modern improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure, and better access to medicines and healthcare, have brought a marked fall in the number of cases. Today, outbreaks occur chiefly in areas where water, sanitation and health systems are inadequate, or where they have been destroyed by natural or manmade disasters.

UN agencies, respected media outlets – including the BBC and New York Times – and influential medical journals such as the Lancet all argue that two years of conflict have created conditions conducive to a cholera outbreak. This narrative, while true, tells only part of the story. It fails to account for the possibility that one party might be more culpable for the outbreak and the other more affected by it.

The Yemeni civil war began in September 2014 when Houthi rebels, a group of Zaydi Shia from northern Yemen, took control of the capital, Sana’a, and then, with help from forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, overthrew the government the following January. The internationally recognised regime led by President Abed Mansour Hadi set up a parallel government in the southern port of Aden.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Sunni Arab states that has attempted to restore the government using airstrikes, an air and naval blockade, and ground troops. The US and UK provide the coalition with logistical support and military equipment. The Saudis have accused Iran of assisting the rebels, but there is limited evidence for this claim and it is denied by the Houthis and Iran.

At least 10,000 people have been killed and 40,000 injured in the conflict. Both sides stand accused of disregarding the wellbeing of civilians and breaching international law. The rebels have indiscriminately fired artillery into residential areas in government-controlled areas and Saudi Arabia. But as the Saudi-led coalition commands far greater resources, it has been able to cause destruction of a totally different magnitude.

The Saudi air force has carried out indiscriminate attacks that have caused the majority of civilian deaths and injuries during the conflict. Airstrikes have targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, farms, schools, water infrastructure, markets and the main port of Hodeida. They complement a Saudi-led naval and air blockade of rebel-controlled areas that has caused shortages of many essential items, including food, fuel and medical supplies.

It was not until four weeks after the start of the outbreak that the first plane carrying medical aid was allowed to land in Sana’a. The government no longer pays public employees working in rebel-controlled areas. About 30,000 health workers have not received a salary for almost a year. Sanitation workers and water engineers in Sana’a have been on strike for months, leaving uncollected rubbish on the streets and municipal drains clogged.

So it is not surprising that rebel-controlled areas are disproportionately affected by the cholera outbreak. About 80% of cases – and deaths – have occurred in governorates controlled by the Houthis. In rebel-controlled areas the attack rate – the number of cases among every 1,000 people – is 17, compared with 10 in government-controlled governorates. The percentage of people with cholera who die is 0.46% in rebel-controlled areas, compared with 0.3% in government-controlled governorates. Thus, a person living in areas under rebel control is 70% more likely to contract cholera and, if they do, 50% more likely to die.

These numbers indicate that the outbreak is not simply an inevitable consequence of civil war. It is rather a direct outcome of the Saudi-led coalition’s strategy of targeting civilians and infrastructure in rebel-controlled areas. Criticism of the US and UK governments’ support for the Saudi-led intervention, this has not led to a policy change. In December 2016, the Obama administration banned the sale of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia due to concerns about civilian casualties in Yemen, but in May 2017 the Trump administration agreed to sell $ 500m such weapons as part of a $ 110bn deal. The following month a bipartisan effort to stop the sale failed by a few votes in the Senate. Last month in the UK, the high court rejected activists’ claims that ministers were acting illegally by continuing to sell fighter jets and precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia when they might be used against civilians in Yemen. In the absence of strong international condemnation of Saudi-led operations, it is hard to foresee a quick end to this public health emergency and the broader humanitarian crisis.

  • Jonathan Kennedy is a lecturer in global health at Queen Mary University of London

Yemen’s cholera death toll rises to 1,500, says World Health Organisation

The death toll from a major cholera outbreak in Yemen has risen to 1,500, Nevio Zagaria, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Yemen, said on Saturday, and appealed for more help to put an end to the epidemic.

Yemen has been devastated by a 27-month war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group, making it a breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Speaking at a joint news conference with representatives of the United Nations Children Fund and the World Bank, Zagaria said there had been 246,000 suspected cases up to 30 June.

Although most of Yemen’s health infrastructure has broken down and health workers have not been paid for more than six months, the WHO is paying “incentives” to doctors, nurses, cleaners and paramedics to staff an emergency cholera network.

With funding help from the World Bank, the WHO is setting up treatment centres with 50-60 beds each, overseen by shifts of about 14 staff working around the clock. The aim is to provide 5,000 beds.

Yemen’s cholera death toll rises to 1,500, says World Health Organisation

The death toll from a major cholera outbreak in Yemen has risen to 1,500, Nevio Zagaria, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Yemen, said on Saturday, and appealed for more help to put an end to the epidemic.

Yemen has been devastated by a 27-month war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group, making it a breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Speaking at a joint news conference with representatives of the United Nations Children Fund and the World Bank, Zagaria said there had been 246,000 suspected cases up to 30 June.

Although most of Yemen’s health infrastructure has broken down and health workers have not been paid for more than six months, the WHO is paying “incentives” to doctors, nurses, cleaners and paramedics to staff an emergency cholera network.

With funding help from the World Bank, the WHO is setting up treatment centres with 50-60 beds each, overseen by shifts of about 14 staff working around the clock. The aim is to provide 5,000 beds.

Yemen’s cholera death toll rises to 1,500, says World Health Organisation

The death toll from a major cholera outbreak in Yemen has risen to 1,500, Nevio Zagaria, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Yemen, said on Saturday, and appealed for more help to put an end to the epidemic.

Yemen has been devastated by a 27-month war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group, making it a breeding ground for the disease, which spreads by faeces getting into food or water and thrives in places with poor sanitation.

Speaking at a joint news conference with representatives of the United Nations Children Fund and the World Bank, Zagaria said there had been 246,000 suspected cases up to 30 June.

Although most of Yemen’s health infrastructure has broken down and health workers have not been paid for more than six months, the WHO is paying “incentives” to doctors, nurses, cleaners and paramedics to staff an emergency cholera network.

With funding help from the World Bank, the WHO is setting up treatment centres with 50-60 beds each, overseen by shifts of about 14 staff working around the clock. The aim is to provide 5,000 beds.