UN: 1,310 dead in Yemen cholera epidemic

UN’s World Health Organization also warns that as many as 300,000 people could be infected by the end of August.

A cholera epidemic has killed some 1,310 people in war-torn Yemen since late April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, warning that as many as 300,000 could get infected by the end of August.

More than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in the country, WHO’s Yemen office said in a statement on Saturday.

READ MORE: WHO – Speed of Yemen cholera outbreak ‘unprecedented’

A UN report has said children account for half of the registered cases to date, and about a quarter of the recorded fatalities.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water. It can be fatal within hours if left untreated.

Although the disease is easily treatable, doing so in conflict-torn Yemen has proved particularly difficult.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen’s embattled government.

Two years of conflict have killed more than 10,000 people, wounded 45,000 others, and displaced more than 11 percent of the country’s 26 million people.

The United Nations has put the blame on all the warring sides and their international backers for the spread of cholera, which it calls a man-made humanitarian catastrophe.

“This is because of conflict, it’s man-made, it’s very severe, the numbers are absolutely staggering. It’s getting worse,” Stephen O’Brien, a senior UN humanitarian affairs official, said. 

“The cholera element in addition to all the lack of food, the lack of medical supplies is, of course, primarily, one has to put that at the door of all parties to the conflict.”

Call for a ceasefire

On Friday, the humanitarian group Oxfam called for a ceasefire because of the outbreak, but the war shows no sign of letting up.

At the Sabeen hospital in the capital, Sanaa, two to three new patients arrive every minute – with many suffering from cholera.

READ MORE: Yemen cholera crisis – Disease kills ‘one person per hour’

The outbreak began last year, but a second wave of the waterborne disease has spread even more quickly in the last two months.

“We are receiving many patients from all over the country, and some are in bad condition,” physician Ismail Mansouri said.

“We are facing many obstacles. We lack much medical equipment, rehydration solutions and medicine.”

The hospital does not have enough doctors and nurses, Mansouri said. Those who are there have been working around the clock to deal with the crisis.

Because of the war, many Yemenis face difficulties accessing clean water.

A large number of patients also have difficulty reaching the closest medical facility.

Some patients had to travel for hours just to reach the Sabeen hospital.

Meanwhile, Saudi’s Ministry of Culture and Information announced on Saturday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has donated $66.7m to the WHO and UN’s Children’s Fund to fight cholera in Yemen.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies