Cholera epidemic overwhelms Yemen

Three hundred and twenty-nine Cholera deaths among 32000 confirmed cases !

No this is not a statistic from 19th century Europe but from 2017.

It was 163 years ago that John Snow established the fact that killer disease Cholera was transmitted through ingestion of food and water contaminated by feces of infected patients. Though it was much before discovery of pathogenic bacteria and antibiotics to combat them, just the discovery of method of transmission helped to contain devastating Cholera epidemics in Western Europe.

In this 21st century armed with all the high-tech drugs and gadgets, and with immense scientific knowledge one does not expect such epidemics to happen again. But sadly it is happening now in war-torn Yemen, where US backed Saudi’s fight Iran backed Houthis.

Children getting treatment – via BBC

“This is the second wave of cholera we have seen here recently, and it is spreading at an alarming rate,” said Nevio Zagaria, head of mission in Yemen for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking from the capital, Sana’a, Zagaria said: “We had an outbreak that started in October 2016 and which declined in January. Now, in the last month, we have seen more cases in three weeks alone than in the previous six months.”

Since 27 April there have been 329 deaths and 32,056 confirmed new cases, according to the latest figures. Of those, 16% are among children under five and 20% among children aged five to 14.

“We have started an investigation to determine whether a new and more virulent strain of the cholera, perhaps originating in Somalia or Ethiopia, has been generating a higher mortality rate during this second wave of infection,” said Zagaria.

In Sana’a – the epicentre of the outbreak, with 8,000 cases – one doctor said his hospital had been receiving more than 100 suspected cases an hour.

Dr Mohammed Zaid said: “I personally received 180 cases in one day. People are left lying in the corridors and in some cases we are having to put six children in one bed.

“We are urging the international organisations to scale up their response. We are facing so many challenges: we lack medicines and medical supplies, we do not have enough doctors and nurses. We don’t even have a place to wash our hands.”

Charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has set up cholera treatment centres in the country, also fears the outbreak will spiral out of control.
“Before the outbreak, the health system was already overstretched and people’s health needs were already huge,” says Ghassan Abou Chaar, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen.
“To bring the outbreak under control, it won’t be enough simply to treat those people who reach medical facilities. We also need to address the source of the disease, by improving water and sanitation and working in communities to prevent new cases.”

The WHO says fewer than 45% of health facilities are fully functioning in Yemen, with almost 300 damaged or destroyed in fighting between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi – who is backed by a Saudi-led multinational coalition – and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.
Save the Children said all sides in the conflict should end restrictions on the import of aid immediately.
More than eight million people lack access to drinking water and sanitation.

More than 8,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed and close to 44,500 others injured since the conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015, according to the UN. The fighting has also left 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Scientific knowledge can save lives but power-hungry narrow-minded leaders should provide an atmosphere conducive for its application.


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