Cholera outbreak in Yemen accelerating again, WHO says

Yemen's cholera outbreak is accelerating again, with roughly 10,000 suspected cases now reported per week, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

That is double the average rate for the first eight months of the year, when 154,527 suspected cases of cholera were recorded across the country, with 196 deaths.

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said 185,160 suspected cholera cases were reported into September.

Some 1.8 million Yemeni children are malnourished, making them more vulnerable to disease, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says. They include nearly 400,000 children whose lives are at risk from severe acute malnutrition.

Cholera can kill within hours if untreated.

Since Yemen's cholera epidemic erupted in April 2017, a total of 1.2 million suspected cases have been reported, with 2,515 deaths, Jasarevic said at a media briefing. Children account for 30 per cent of infections.

"We have been seeing the number of cholera cases increasing in Yemen since June. This increase has been even more important in the last three weeks," Jasarevic said.

Public health workers spray insecticide on a rain-water pool amid fears of an ongoing cholera outbreak in Sanaa, Yemen, on June 4, 2018. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

In the first week of September, nearly 11,500 suspected cases were reported, up from 9,425 the week before, he said.

Save the Children said airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in late July had damaged a sanitation facility and water station that supplies water to Hodeida, a port city and supply lifeline held by Houthi forces.

"After this incident, suspected cholera cases almost doubled between July (732) and August (1,342) in Save the Children-supported health centres," the charity said.

WHO said 16 per cent of Yemen's cholera cases were in Hodeida, where only half of the health facilities are operational.

If caught early, the acute diarrhea can be treated with oral rehydration salts, but more severe cases require intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

WHO is administering vaccinations, targeting 540,000 people in three vulnerable districts in the Hodeida and Ibb regions. In a first round, 387,000 people — or 72 per cent of those targeted — received an initial dose, Jasarevic said, adding that the organization wanted to extend the program to other parts of Yemen.

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