More than 7,600 people have been killed and 42,000 injured since war broke out in Yemen in March of 2015, an NGO has recently reported.
On top of that, the country’s health system has collapsed, hundreds of thousands of people became displaced and forced to seek refuge elsewhere, and the deplorable state of sanitation in the country has made access to clean drinking water nearly impossible for many residents, causing a deathly outbreak of cholera.
While humanitarian groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières are trying to combat the epidemic, without clean water the disease will continue to spread through the population, the group said last week.
Cholera is transmitted through dirty water, contaminated mainly by manure. With more than 365,500 cases recorded from April to July of this year and 1,802 deaths, Yemen is facing what the United Nations has called “the world’s worst cholera outbreak” that only continues to grow.
The situation is particularly serious in Abs, which has been severely affected by both the war and the epidemic. The first case of cholera was recorded there in March and has exploded into an epidemic since then. Typically, a few cases of cholera might pop up in a village here or there, but it rarely turns into an epidemic, Paul Delaunois, director of MSF Luxembourg told Delano on 19 July.
“If we look at the factors that allow a cholera epidemic to develop within a population, we see that Yemen, in general, and Abs, in particular, bring them together,” Candelaria Lanusse, nurse and MSF health advisor for Yemen, stated in a press release issued the same day:
“… A large part of the population lives in very difficult conditions, impoverished, with limited access to drinking water, suffering from a lack of food and already strongly affected by other diseases”
In the Abs region, as elsewhere in Yemen, humanitarian assistance needs to be urgently increased, said the MSF statement.
“Access to drinking water and sanitation were already problematic before, but have become crucial since the beginning of the epidemic,” Lanusse said. “We must act now or we will have to face an even more dramatic humanitarian crisis in the weeks and months ahead.”
MSF currently has nine treatment centres that distribute disinfection kits which include soaps, chlorine pellets, brooms and mops. However, due to governmental restrictions, it is difficult to even import the materials, not only for MSF but for hospitals there in general.
“A lot of deaths like this is normally very rare,” Delaunois said:
“It’s a deathly disease if we don’t do anything, but if they go to a cholera treatment centre, it’s very easy to treat.”
The organisation said its teams have treated more than 12,200 patients with cholera or acute watery diarrhea. After two months of exponential increase, the number of cases per week decreased for the first time in early July, but every week hundreds of patients suffering from the disease are still being treated.