Save the Children, 8th July
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Yemen - More than 203,000 children in Yemen have been infected with suspected cholera since the start of 2019.
Altogether in the first six months of the year there were nearly 440,000 suspected cases of the disease – that’s more than in the whole of 2018.
The fatality rate has also doubled since 2018, with 193 child deaths from suspected cholera reported so far. In total the number of people dying in the outbreak is nine times higher than in the same period last year.
This warning that the battle against the disease is far from over comes at a critical moment. The rainy season is likely to lead to an escalation in the outbreak - there is already flooding, and more heavy downpours threaten to intensify the spread of the waterborne disease.
The conflict in Yemen has disabled much of the infrastructure for clean water and sanitation, leaving some 9.2 million children without proper access to safe water. Fuel availability is fluctuating, limiting the pumping of sewage and garbage collection, leaving many parts of Yemen a breeding ground for infectious and waterborne diseases such as cholera.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen said:
“Disease outbreaks are now rife due to the collapse of the health system and weak sanitation systems and a population made increasingly vulnerable by forced displacement and malnutrition. The health system is under considerable stress, with only half of health facilities functional. The rest are closed or only partially operational.
“The number of suspected cases has been relatively steady for some weeks, but the disease is endemic and we’re fearing a sharp spike because of the rains and flooding. As long as the conflict rages on, clean water systems are breaking down and funding of aid in Yemen remains too low, all we can do is try and keep as many children as possible alive.”
Malnourished children are extra vulnerable to cholera related diseases. Because of their weak immune systems they are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera. Diarrhoeal diseases like cholera are also themselves a major contributor to malnutrition in Yemen.
Save the Children is supporting oral re-hydration corners and primary health care in health facilities in most of Yemen’s hotspot districts. Also, it runs programs to purify water and raise awareness on the prevention of the disease in communities - but only an end to the war can protect children from the widespread cholera, the organisation said.
Save the Children is calling on the UK to continue using its power at the UN Security Council to press all parties to implement the Stockholm Agreement in good faith. They should push for a return to the negotiating table to agree a nationwide ceasefire and political settlement to finally end the conflict.
Urgent action is needed to rebuild the health system Save the Children asks the Yemen authorities to ensure the regular and full payment of civil servant salaries, particularly to health workers and teachers, and equip health facilities with the urgently needed personnel to ensure the continuity of delivery of much needed health services.
Notes to editor
- All figures from the World Health Organisation’s Cholera Outbreak Monitor (COM): http://yemeneoc.org/bi/. According to the COM, the number of suspected cases of cholera in the first six months of 2018 was 93,237 with the number of associated deaths standing at 76. In the first six months of 2019 the total number of cases was 439,812 (about 4.5 times higher than in the same period in 2018, the number of deaths is 695 (nine times higher than in the first half of 2018).
- For the number of children without access to safe water see https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2019_Yemen_HNO_FINAL.pdf (p13)
- Malnourished children are 6.3x (Severe Acute Malnutrition) and 2.9x (Moderate Acute Malnutrition) more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases than well-nourished children. See here for more information: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/Lancetseries_Undernutrition1.pdf
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