An ongoing cholera epidemic which has swept war-ravaged Yemen is the “largest ever recorded” in a single year, with more than 360,000 suspected cases in the three months since the outbreak started, the charity Oxfam said.
Since cholera began to spread in April, the epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people, while the country grapples with death, starvation, malnutrition and diseases due to a worsening humanitarian situation caused by the war, Oxfam said in a statement on Friday.
“It is quite frankly staggering that in just three months, more people in Yemen have contracted cholera than any country has suffered in a single year since modern records began,” Nigel Timmins, Oxfam’s humanitarian director, said in the statement.
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“Cholera has spread unchecked in a country already on its knees after two years of war and which is teetering on the brink of famine. For many people, weakened by war and hunger, cholera is the knockout blow.”
The charity said it fears that the total number of people infected with cholera could rise as high as 600,000, making it one of the largest outbreaks since records started in 1949.
The previous annual record was in Haiti in 2011, when 340,311 cases were recorded.
“It is hard to imagine how much more Yemen can take before it collapses entirely,” Timmins said.
Starvation and war
Two years of conflict have killed more than 10,000 people, wounded tens of thousands and displaced millions.
In a statement released earlier this month, UNICEF’s Yemen office said that most children in the country lacked basic medical care, adequate nutrition, fresh drinking water, suitable sanitation and education.
The World Food Programme said more than 17 million Yemenis do not know where their next meal will come from.
Earlier this month, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said at a news conference in Sanaa that aid groups in Yemen had pulled resources from the fight against malnutrition to battle the cholera outbreak in the country, raising the risk of famine as they struggle to find funds.
“We’re trying to do our best, but it’s very much beyond what we can cope with,” he said.