Cholera death toll in Yemen continues to rise

Published 06.06.2017 00:00
Updated 06.06.2017 00:45

At least 676 people have died since a cholera epidemic broke out in war-torn Yemen in late April, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO said more than 86,400 suspected cases of cholera had been registered in 19 Yemeni provinces.

International organizations -- including the WHO, UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross -- have recently stepped up the delivery of medical supplies to Yemen, where local health authorities are struggling to cope with the outbreak.

A suspected cholera outbreak is spreading quickly in war-ravaged Yemen, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 new cases every day, the U.N. children's agency said last week.

Geert Cappelaere, the Middle East director of UNICEF, said in an interview with The Associated Press that 70,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in the past month in 19 of Yemen's 22 governorates.

He voiced his concern that cholera cases could double every two weeks __ to 130,000 and then about 300,000 cases __ unless more aid is delivered. He says the outbreak might "spread beyond Yemen" and should perturb all states neighboring Yemen where civil war is now in its third year.

"It is sad today, but we hope the cholera outbreak will the turning point in turning people's attention to Yemen," he said. "Cholera is not going to be stopped by any border."

The fighting has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced 3 million others and devastated the country's health sector and economy. Cappelaere says many patients can't afford to travel to free clinics.

Just back from a five-day trip to the Yemeni capital Sanaa, Cappelaere said the outbreak is the latest horror faced by Yemeni children alongside growing starvation, militias' recruitment of kids, and rising child marriages. "Yemen is one of the worst places in the world to be a child," he said.

Yemen, on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been in the midst of a civil war since September 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels swept into the capital of Sanaa and overthrew President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries began a military campaign against Houthi forces, saying its mission served in part as a counterbalance to Iran's influence with the Houthis following its nuclear deal with world powers. Two rounds of UN-backed peace talks have failed to resolve the conflict in which thousands of Yemenis are believed to have been killed and an estimated three million forced to flee their homes.

According to UN officials, more than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict to date, while more than 11 percent of the country's total population have been displaced from their homes.

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