Cholera outbreak kills at least 115 in Yemen

The disease is suspected to have left some 8,500 people ill in over two weeks as hospitals struggle to cope with an influx of patients, the Red Cross says.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

This is the second outbreak of cholera in less than a year in Yemen.

A cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen has killed 115 people and left 8,500 ill as hospitals struggle to cope with an influx of patients, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday.

"We now are facing a serious outbreak of cholera," said ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart in capital Sana'a.

Sana'a has been the worst hit by the outbreak, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency in the capital, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

Citing figures compiled by the Yemeni health ministry, Stillhart said 115 people had died of cholera between April 27 and Saturday (May 13).

More than 8,500 suspected cases of the waterborne disease were reported in the same period in 14 provinces across Yemen, Stillhart said, up from 2,300 cases in 10 provinces last week.

Overcrowded hospitals

This is the second outbreak of cholera in less than a year in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.

Yemen is witnessing a devastating war between the Saudi-supported government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, and less than half of the country's health facilities are functioning two years into the conflict.

Stillhart said hospitals were filled beyond capacity with patients displaying symptoms of cholera, a bacterial infection contracted through ingesting contaminated food or water.

There are up to four cholera patients in one single bed. There are people in the garden, and some even in their cars with the IV drip hanging from the window — Dominik Stillhart

Dominik Stillhart, Director of Operations for the ICRC says the Yemeni hospitals are filled beyond capacity. [Reuters]

Millions at risk of famine

WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

Critical food imports are also at an all-time low as many of the country's Red Sea ports are blockaded.

The United Nations has warned 17 million people, equivalent to two-thirds of the population. are at imminent risk of famine in Yemen.

More than 8,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened to support Yemen's government in 2015, according to the WHO.