Suspected cholera cases have almost tripled in Yemen’s coastal Hodeidah region since the Saudi Arabia-UAE coalition launched a military offensive in June to retake the area, according to a rights group.
Health facilities across the governorate recorded a 170 percent increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, from 497 in June to 1,342 in August, Save the Children, a UK-based NGO, said in a report.
The group said the spike was in line with national data that also showed a steady increase of suspected cholera cases across Yemen.
Thirty percent of all suspected cases are children under five years old, according to the World Health Organization.
“The situation in Hodeidah has become unbearable because of the conflict. I’m seeing more and more children coming in with suspected cholera,” Mariam Aldogani, Save the Children’s Hodeidah field manager, said.
“I met one mother of two who has acute diarrhoea and she told me her whole family is affected because they don’t have access to clean water anymore.”
‘Treating cholera is straightforward’
The rise in suspected cases in Hodeidah follows a dramatic increase in fighting between the Houthis and forces backed by the Saudi Arabia-UAE coalition since June.
According to the group, a series of air raids in late July resulted in the damage of a sanitation facility and water station that supplies Hodeidah with most of its water.
Suspected cholera cases almost doubled in the aftermath of the incident, going from 732 in July to 1,342 in August.
In a recent UN survey of more than 2,000 respondents across Yemen, more than half (56 percent) cited water supply damage as the most common form of infrastructure damage. In Hodeidah governorate this jumped to 62 percent of respondents.
“Children in Yemen are experiencing severe hardships that no child should endure, facing multiple threats from bombs and bullets to disease and extreme hunger,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen country director.
“Treating cholera is straightforward, provided children can get the rehydration and antibiotics they need, and hospitals and clinics are adequately equipped. But nearly four years of conflict has led to a near-total collapse of the health system in Yemen.”
Lifeline for millions
Fighting near Hodeidah – the main gateway for imports of relief supplies and commercial goods into the country – has escalated since June 13 after the Saudi-UAE alliance launched a wide-ranging operation to retake the strategic seaport.
The offensive is being carried out by a disparate collective of forces including the National Resistance, a group of fighters loyal to Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Tihama Resistance, a group of fighters loyal to Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the Giant Brigades, a military unit backed by the UAE.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see Hodeidah port as the main entry point of weapons for the Houthis and have accused their regional rival Iran of sending missiles to the rebels, a charge Tehran has denied.
The war in Yemen, the region’s poorest country, started in 2014 when the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.
Hadi’s government was toppled by Houthi rebels in late 2014 after the rebels advanced south from their stronghold of Saada and captured large parts of the north.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched air raids in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Hadi.
With logistical support from the US, the Saudi-UAE alliance has carried out more than 16,000 attacks on Houthi-held areas in an attempt to reverse their gains.
These attacks have hit weddings and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.