Home/Daniel Larison/There Are Now 800,000+ Cases in Yemen’s Horrifying Cholera Epidemic

There Are Now 800,000+ Cases in Yemen’s Horrifying Cholera Epidemic

Every week unfortunately brings more news that Yemen’s cholera epidemic continues to spread and claim more lives:

The death toll of the Cholera epidemic in war-ravaged Yemen has risen to 2,151 since it broke out in late April, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday.

A total of 800,626 people from 22 provinces out of total 23 have been infected [bold mine-DL], WHO said in a statement distributed to the local media.

The cholera epidemic in Yemen started to explode in mid-April, and in less than six months it has spread to more than 800,000 people. As the WHO figures show, the epidemic is affecting almost the entire country, but even if it were affecting only a part of Yemen it would still be a major public health crisis that demands an immediate and substantial international effort to halt it. It took many years for a cholera outbreak to spread to fewer people than this in Haiti earlier in the decade. It is terrible to contemplate how many more cases there will be in another six months’ time, but unless conditions improve significantly there will be many hundreds of thousands more come next April.

Aid groups have tried to estimate how many cases there will be by the end of the year, but the epidemic has quickly reached and surpassed those numbers. The latest estimate by the Red Cross is that there will be a million cases by the end of the year, but the disease has been spreading much faster than anticipated and will probably continue doing so. Just as the epidemic rapidly exceeded the previous estimate of 600,000 cases, I fear the same will happen with the newest estimate. The point here is that Yemen’s cholera epidemic has shown itself to be much worse than anyone expected, and it continues to get worse more quickly than anyone thought it would, so there must be even greater urgency in combating the epidemic and the larger humanitarian disaster of which it is a major part.

An essential part of this is to press the Saudi-led coalition to halt their war and blockade, demand an end to all efforts to impede delivery of aid by all parties to the conflict, and organize and fund the massive relief effort that the famine and cholera crises in Yemen have needed for a long time. Since the U.S. has been a chief enabler and author of this catastrophe, our government should play a significant role in funding the relief effort and in providing the logistical support to deliver aid. I have no confidence at all that the current administration will do any of this, but that is what the U.S. ought to be doing now. Helping to alleviate at least some of the suffering of the people of Yemen won’t make up for our government’s indefensible role in bringing that country to this point, but it is the very least that we can do.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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