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Deadly cholera epidemic infecting one child every minute sweeps through Yemen

Yemen on ‘the verge of total collapse’, Save the Children says

Fiona Keating
Wednesday 14 June 2017 17:21 BST
A woman carries her son Imran Faraj, 8 year-old, who is suffering from malnutrition at a hospital in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah
A woman carries her son Imran Faraj, 8 year-old, who is suffering from malnutrition at a hospital in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah (Reuters)

Save the Children has warned that the rate of cholera infection in Yemen has tripled over the past 14 days, with an average of 105 children contracting the disease every hour – or one every 35 seconds.

The country is now on “the verge of total collapse” according to Grant Pritchard, the charity's director.

During the war currently raging in the Middle Eastern country, more than 7,600 people have lost their lives and 42,000 have been injured since March 2015.

Most were killed in air strikes by a Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

This conflict has caused a humanitarian disaster which is hitting young children the hardest.

More than two million Yemeni children are extremely malnourished, leaving them vulnerable to disease.

“Cholera is one form of acute, watery diarrhoea, a symptom that can be caused by any number of bacteria, viruses and parasites,” Caroline Anning, of the charity, told The Independent.

“In its most severe form, cholera is one of the swiftest lethal infectious diseases known – characterised by an explosive outpouring of fluid and electrolytes within hours of infection that, if not treated appropriately, can lead to death within hours. In places where drinking water is unprotected from faecal contamination, cholera can spread with stunning speed through entire populations.”

With prompt and appropriate treatment, child deaths can be kept low through a combination of public health interventions. These include medical cholera kits, provision of safe water and hygiene promotion.

The war-torn country is facing “a perfect storm”, Ms Anning said.

Bombing has affected sanitation works, with health facilities unable to run.

“It’s very difficult to ship in supplies to Yemen as there is a de facto blockade, with Sana’a, the country’s primary international airport, closed to commercial flights,” she added.

Save the Children fund, together with other humanitarian agencies, have developed a new Integrated Cholera Response Plan seeking a total of £52m ($66m) – three times more than the previous appeal – to implement health provisions including cholera kits and chlorinated water.

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