The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has skyrocketed to 1,410 within three weeks of an outbreak being declared, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Eighteen months of war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition backing the Yemeni government has destroyed the majority of health facilities and clean water supplies in the country.
Yemen’s health ministry announced the outbreak in early October, when WHO officials said there were 24 suspected cases and the disease was not spreading.
On Friday, though, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a news conference that, as of Thursday, there were 1,410 suspected cholera cases in 10 out of Yemen’s 23 governorates, mostly in Taiz, Aden, Lahj, Hodeida and Sanaa.
The conflict has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, killed more than 10,000 people and displaced millions.
Cholera is only one of several risks to civilians in the war-battered country, but a rapid advance of the disease would add a new dimension to an unfolding humanitarian disaster.
The war has left 7.4 million children in need of medical help, about 1.5 million malnourished, and 370,000 at risk of severe acute malnutrition, according to the UN children’s agency (UNICEF).
WHO said on Wednesday that 47 of the suspected cases had so far tested positive for cholera.
Cholera is a disease that is transmitted through contaminated drinking water that causes acute diarrhoea. It can be fatal in up to 15 percent of untreated cases, according to UNICEF.
Children under 10 make up half of the cases, with six deaths from cholera and 36 associated deaths from acute watery diarrhoea, WHO said.
Although most sufferers have no symptoms or mild symptoms that can be treated with oral rehydration solution, in more severe cases, the disease can kill within hours if not treated with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.