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According to Yemen’s health ministry, 115 people have died of cholera in just over two weeks between April 27 and May 13, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is catastrophic,” Dominik Stillhart, ICRC director of operations, said on Sunday, May 14. “We now are facing a serious outbreak of cholera.”

UNICEF tweeted that 115 people have died and 8,595 suspected cases of cholera were reported in the same period, a dramatic increase from the 2,300 cases reported to May 9. Cholera has been confirmed in 209 cases.

International relief agencies warned that people with cholera symptoms are beginning to overwhelm Yemen’s medical facilities, already struggling to cope with war and serious malnutrition.

“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.”

ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart on cholera in Yemen

Less than two weeks ago, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General Jan Egeland warned seven million people in Yemen are at risk of a man-made famine.

On May 9, Médecins Sans Frontières said it had set up cholera treatment centres in five hospitals to isolate and treat patients. The organization is supporting other facilities to treat the sick.

This is the second outbreak of cholera in Yemen in less than a year. A UN appeal for $22.2 million had only received $6.7 million as of May 9, less than a third of what’s required to implement a response plan to contain the spread of the disease.

The World Health Organization estimates that 7.6 million people live in areas of Yemen at high risk of cholera transmission.

Cholera

Cholera is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. It is contracted through faecally contaminated food or water

In its most severe form, it is chacterised by a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhoea

Around 75% of people infected will have no or mild symptoms but, in severe cases, the disease can rapidly lead to severe dehydration and death if left untreated.

Up to 80% of patients can be treated simply and cheaply through the administration of oral rehydration salts

Antibiotics can reduce the volume of diarrhoea, reduce the volume of rehydration fluids needed, and shorten the duration of illness. The World Health Organisation WHO recommends antibiotics only in cases of severe dehydration.

Safe water, proper sanitation, and food safety are critical for preventing cholera

More on cholera

The world is letting 7 million people in Yemen “be engulfed by unprecedented famine” – NRC’s Jan Egeland

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