Yemen cholera outbreak could hit one million by 2018

Yemen has endured 750,000 suspected cases of cholera, with at least 2,119 dying since the start of the year.

Yemeni children suspected of being infected with cholera receive treatment [File: Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is a “catastrophe”, and cholera cases could hit a million by the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned.

Warring parties in Yemen – including the Western-backed Saudi-led coalition – are all using disproportionate force, leading to “very excessive” civilian casualties, Alexandre Faite, the head of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, said on Friday.

The ICRC said there are currently 750,000 suspected cases of cholera, with 2,119 deaths. 

“We could be to one million (cases) by the end of the year,” Faite told a news briefing in Geneva.

“The situation has really evolved in a very dramatic way and I think that it’s nothing short of a catastrophe.”

Civil war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people since it began in March 2015.

Control of the country is split between the Houthi rebels, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. Opposed to the rebels are a Saudi-led coalition.

With the main port of Hodeidah damaged, the Red Cross brings medical aid, including insulin, into Yemen with occasional cargo planes to Sanaa. Other goods come by land convoys from Jordan and Oman and by ship from Jordan, Oman and Dubai.

A ship from Karachi with 500 tonnes of rice is now due on October 7 in Hodeidah, the first ICRC shipment there since early February.

Faite called on all sides to open Sanaa airport to commercial flights for essential aid supplies and to make progress towards allowing the ICRC to visit prisoners of war.

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“I don’t think political settlement is coming soon and I’m very worried that the extension of the conflict would lead to more problems,” Faite said.

“This is why humanitarian aid, access to essential goods should be there,” he said. “There is a bottleneck”.

Although the death rate for cholera victims has dropped to less than 0.3 percent, Faite said Yemen’s “health sector is really on its knees in Yemen … the health staff is on its knees as well because they are not paid.”

For the first time, the ICRC is now providing health workers with food parcels, he said.

“In terms of access to even water, electricity – there isn’t a power grid in the main cities in Yemen. Without the ICRC and other organisations fixing (pumping stations) there wouldn’t be any running water in Sanaa,” he said.

The UN has warned that fighting in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine, with 80 percent of the country’s children desperately in need of aid, posing the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world”.

Source: News Agencies