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Yemen Cholera Epidemic Reaches 'Devastating' Proportions

First Posted: Jun 13, 2017 05:05 AM EDT
The Republic Of Yemen
War victim 8-year-old Abbas is seen at the Al-Mazraq IDP camps, Al-Mazraq, Yemen.
(Photo : Brent Stirton/Reportage/Getty Images)

In an unprecedented cholera epidemic, Yemen is facing its biggest health concern yet, with one death nearly every hour. At this point, the country's main airport has been closed, preventing many reporters and human rights workers from entering the country.

However, local journalists show evidence that more help is still needed to fight the deadly disease. As of the last tally, according to Democracy Now, a total of 859 deaths have already been associated with cholera since April 27. However, the number of suspected cases has surpassed the 100,000 mark. The outbreak of the disease came upon the collapse of Yemen's health, water and sanitation systems due to the ongoing war between the government forces and the rebel Houthi movement.

Cholera, an acute infection caused by ingestion of food and water contaminated by bacteria, does not usually show symptoms in mild cases. However, more severe cases can kill within hours if left untreated.

Independent UK noted that children under the age of 15 already accounted for 46 percent of the cases, and the disease is making the situation in Yemen drastically worse. Dr. Meritxell Relaño, a UNICEF representative in Yemen, said that many of the children who died from the disease were also acutely malnourished.

ABC News Australia pointed out that Yemen is the Middle East's poorest country. A multinational coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing the country for the past two years as Iranian-backed Houthis rebels took over its capital.

In fact, the United Nations said that Yemen is now the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Its health system, according to Dr. Relaño, is already about to collapse.

"With health workers who have not received a salary. With half of the facilities being closed and with very limited supplies coming into the country," he said.

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