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Cholera Outbreak Continues to Surge in Yemen

The conditions are ripe for another explosion of cholera that could claim thousands more lives.
yemen children

According to Oxfam, the number of cases from the new cholera outbreak in Yemen has continued to surge:

Some 195,000 people are suspected to have contracted the disease so far this year, of which more than 38,000 are in districts that are hard for aid agencies to reach.

If that figure is correct, the number of cholera cases has jumped by more than 80,000 in less than a month. When I wrote about the outbreak in late March, the number was 110,000. In a couple of weeks at the current rate, it will be twice that. The threat to the civilian population in Yemen is real and rapidly growing, and the need for a halt to the fighting and unimpeded humanitarian aid is extremely urgent.

Almost 18 million Yemenis are without access to clean water and sanitation. That is more than half the population of the entire country. Almost as many are also malnourished and starving. Between the breakdown in sanitation from the bombing of treatment plants and non-payment of salaries for sanitation workers, the extensive destruction of health care facilities, the fuel shortage that prevents the pumping of clean drinking water, and the ongoing starvation of millions of people, the conditions are ripe for another explosion of cholera that could claim thousands more lives. Young children are among the most likely to be at risk, and children under the age of 5 make up a quarter of new cases. It shouldn’t be possible for a treatable, preventable disease like this one to flourish in the modern world year after year, but the warring parties including the Saudi coalition and the U.S. have so devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and economy that innocent civilians in the hundreds of thousands and potentially in the millions are still in danger of being infected with cholera.

Oxfam issued a new report on the cholera outbreak today, and they warn that if the outbreak keeps spreading at its current rate it will be even worse at its height than the one in 2017:

Oxfam has calculated that if suspected new cases continue to be identified at current rates for the rest of the year, this spike in the outbreak will exceed that of 2017.

Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, said: “The people of Yemen have already endured the worst cholera outbreak in history, amid more than four years of war and the collapse of the country’s economy.

“Unfortunately instead of siding with Yemeni people demanding peace and struggling to survive, the Trump administration this week doubled down on its support for one side of this conflict. This war is causing disease, hunger, and death, and its keeping us from reaching some of those in most risk and need. The international community urgently needs to ensure safe, secure and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid for all people in need across the country.”

Oxfam and other aid agencies are doing all they can to combat Yemen’s multiple, overlapping humanitarian crises, and their work is saving many lives, but aid alone will not be enough to end these crises. Yemen needs peace, an end to the Saudi coalition’s economic war and blockade, and a concerted international effort to stabilize and revive the country’s battered economy. The U.S. and the rest of the world are still failing the people of Yemen, whose country we have helped to wreck over the last four years. That has to start changing, or many more tens of thousands of Yemenis will die from preventable causes.



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