Yemen’s Cholera Epidemic

A recent report by the World Health Organisation has found that the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached over 500,000. Since the end of April, almost 2,000 people have died as a result of the waterborne disease.

Cholera is a diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of water and food that is contaminated with Vibrio cholera.

The WHO reveals that at least 5,000 people are still being infected every day, as a direct consequence of unsanitary living conditions and deteriorating hygiene affecting the country’s water supply.

Waste collection has been halted in major Yemeni cities, meaning at least 14 million people do not have access to safe, clean water.

The damage sustained to over half of all medical facilities in Yemen, due to the current conflict between pro-government forces and the rebel Houthi movement, has meant that health services have been unable to cope with the world’s largest cholera epidemic.

At a briefing to the United Nations Security Council, UN Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien, stated that “this cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen’s borders who are leading, supplying, fighting, and perpetuating the fear and the fighting.” He further called for a ceasefire in order to rebuild medical clinics and pay medical workers who have been active during the crisis.

Recent figures estimate that over 30,000 health workers have missed up to a year of pay due to the crisis. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, stated that “these doctors and nurses are the backbone of the health response – without them we can do nothing in Yemen. They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives.”

Dr Tedros has also called on both sides to find a political solution to the crisis which has already killed over 8,000 people since mid-2015.

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.