Yemeni children infected by cholera at rate of one every 35 seconds

The cholera outbreak in Yemen is escalating at an alarming rate, with experts warning that a child is now infected with the disease every 35 seconds, according to Save the Children. Grant Pritchard, the charity’s director in Yemen, warned the country is on “the verge of total collapse” as a combination of near-famine conditions and crippled infrastructure fuel the spread of cholera. Over the past two weeks, the rate of infection has more than tripled, according to Save the Children. It reports that young people are increasingly the worst affected – under 15s now account for nearly half of all cases, compared with 40% last week. As of the 13 June, 129,185 suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhoea cases and 942 deaths have been registered in 20 of Yemen’s 22 governorates. Unicef estimates that there could be 250,000 cases in six months’ time.
Dr Meritxell Relaño, the Unicef Yemen representative, said the epidemic has come on top of a crisis in public services, which has crippled health, water and sanitation systems. “Cholera came at a moment where the system was about to collapse, where poverty was increasing, where malnutrition peaked. You can imagine what diarrhoea can do to a child who is already very weak, whose immune system is at a minimum – children who are six months old and are only 2.5kg,” she said.
More than 2 million children under the age of five in Yemen are acutely malnourished. Damage to infrastructure caused by two years of intense conflict means 14.5 million people, including nearly 8 million children, do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

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