Yemen faces another danger that threatens thousands of lives: cholera. The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that the cholera outbreak in this Arab country in Western Asia has already killed over 1,300 people.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection. It is contracted by ingestion of food or water contaminated by Vibrio cholerae. The symptoms show between 5 and 12 days after ingesting contaminated food and water.
Some people infected by the bacterium do not develop symptoms. Some exhibit mild or moderate symptoms, but there are those who develop acute watery diarrhea and severe dehydration. The illness affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if left untreated.
More Than 200,000 Affected By Yemen's Cholera Outbreak
The illness, believed to have sickened more than 200,000, has already killed 1,310. The number of suspected cases has doubled since early June and the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that cholera cases and deaths in the war-torn country could reach 300,000 by the end of August as cases continue to climb at an average pace of 5,000 per day.
The illness has spread in nearly every governorate of the country in just two months. Of the fatalities, one quarter are children. The number of deaths associated with the epidemic is expected to rise.
"We are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world," the UNICEF said in a statement released on June 24. "UNICEF and WHO are taking all measures to scale up prevention and treatment interventions. We call on authorities in Yemen to strengthen their internal efforts to stop the outbreak from spreading further."
Factors Behind The Outbreak
The agency blamed the outbreak on the nation's two years of conflict citing collapsing water, sanitation and health systems have curtailed 14.5 million people's regular access to clean water and sanitation, which elevated the disease's ability to spread.
UNICEF also said that the increasing rate of malnutrition weakened the health of the children and made them vulnerable to the disease.
The agency likewise noted the situation of the local health workers who play a critical role to ending the outbreak. About 30,000 of them have not been paid their salaries for almost 10 months. Those who collect garbage and others crucial to maintaining the vital systems have not also been paid for months.
Efforts Of Aid Agencies To Reduce The Spread Of Disease
UNICEF said that containing the outbreak in Yemen is difficult but despite the challenges, aid agencies make progress in lowering the number of cholera cases and cholera-associated deaths in some parts of Yemen.
UNICEF representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relano said that a team of people go house by house to check the water sources that families use.
"They chlorinate the water tanks if they have a water tank ... and then they are informed about the ways to avoid cholera by providing good hygiene to the family - hand washing with soap, how to handle the food and how to handle a family that is sick with cholera or with diarrhea," he said.