Tuesday, July 11, 2017

International Committee of Red Cross reports 300,000 cases of cholera in Yemen

The Red Cross says that more than 7,000 new suspected cases are diagnosed each day in a country hit by war and economic collapse as well as near famine. The epidemic has been raging now for 10 weeks. While the spread of cholera in the worst hit regions has slowed, the disease is spreading to other areas. The worst hit areas are in the west of the country where there has been a continuous war between a Saudi-led coalition supporting the government of Mansour Hadi in the port city of Aden and Houthi rebels who hold much of the north-west of Yemen and the capital Sanaa.

The war has helped the spread of the disease caused by human waste getting into food or water. It thrives where there is poor sanitation. A few cases are now appearing further east in the Hadramawt region and Mukalla port. The economic collapse has resulted in 30,000 health workers going unpaid for more than 10 months. The UN has issued "incentive payments" to get them involved in a campaign to fight cholera. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set up a network of rehydration points. These together with what is left of the Yemeni health system has managed to keep the death rate relatively low at just 0.6 percent of cases. Even so, more than 1,700 have lost their lives to the disease.

The spread of the disease has caused humanitarian organizations to divert some resources from tackling the malnutrition issue to combating the disease. UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrich said:"Humanitarian organisations have had to reprogramme their resources away from malnutrition and reuse them to control the cholera outbreak. And if we don't get these resources replaced, then using those resources for cholera will mean that food insecurity will suffer." There are almost 19 million Yemenis reliant upon aid, and according to the Red Cross this is the world's largest single humanitarian crisis. Only 45 per cent of Yemen's hospitals are operational and medicines and medical supplies are scarce.

In theory prevention of cholera is simple. Wash your hands with clean water. Drink clean water. Eat food that has been boiled or well cooked. However, clean water in Yemen is scarce. In Sanaa the capital the municipal workers have not been paid in months. There is no electricity and rubbish is piling up in the streets. However, there are 17 cholera treatment centers across Yemen.

WHO has decided it will be unlikely to try to attempt a cholera vaccination campaign in Yemen, reversing a decision to do so made a month ago. The reversal is due to the already rampant spread of the disease and security conditions. A spokesperson for the WHO, Christian Lindmeier, said doses
readied for shipment to Yemen will probably be sent to other parts of the world in danger from the disease saying: “There is a likelihood they will not be used anymore in Yemen and therefore rerouted to other areas/countries who may need them more urgently right now.” The announcement came as a surprise to many.

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