Yemen is facing the worst cholera outbreak anywhere in the world, the United Nations has warned.
A statement by UNICEF and the WHO says the number of cholera cases has exceeded 200,000. Currently, more than 1,300 people have died, one-quarter of those have been children, with the death toll expected to rise. The UN said they are doing everything they can to stop the outbreak from accelerating.
U.N. humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien described the outbreak as a “man-made catastrophe” caused by the warring sides in the country’s civil war and their international backers.
Cholera is caused by ingesting bacteria from water or food contaminated with feces. The disease causes profuse diarrhea vomiting, which can lead to death by severe dehydration, sometimes in a matter of hours. The infection then spreads when someone ingests food or water contaminated with the feces or vomit of someone carrying the disease. In a very short period, especially in a war-torn area, contaminated food or water can cause massive outbreaks. The symptoms can appear within two to three days, or as little as a few hours.
“This is because of conflict, it’s man-made, it’s very severe, the numbers are absolutely staggering, it’s getting worse, and the cholera element in addition to the lack of food, the lack of medical supplies, primarily one has to put that at the door of all the parties to the conflict,” O’Brien said.
Yemen’s epidemic follows an economic collapse and two years of civil war which has left 19 million people in need if humanitarian aid.
The exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, supported by the U.S. backed; the Saudi-led coalition is trying to roll back gains made by the Iran-aligned Houthi group which controls most of northern Yemen, including the Capital Sanaa.
Nigel Timmins, a humanitarian director to aid charity, has called for a “cholera ceasefire,” he said the governments are stoking the war rather than prioritizing the humanitarian crisis.
“In Yemen, governments who are providing generous funding are also making money from supplying weapons, munitions, military equipment, and technology. They are providing logistical and financial support for the military action taking place,” he said.