Greater effort needed to combat cholera: Yemen ministry

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa


Yemenis wait outside a tent where patients infected with cholera are receiving treatment at Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa, on June 13th. At least one patient checks in at Sabaeen every 60 seconds. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A spike in cholera-related deaths and infections is likely, a Yemen health ministry official told Al-Mashareq, warning that current efforts are not sufficient to eliminate the sources of the outbreak.

"The number of deaths and suspected cholera cases is continuously rising," said ministry spokesman Abdul Hakim al-Kahlani.

The latest figures, from Tuesday (June 13th), show the number of deaths has risen to 942 and the number of suspected cases to 124,000, he told Al-Mashareq.

A day earlier, the World Health Organisation reported that 923 deaths have been recorded since April 27th.

WHO has warned that a quarter of a million people could fall sick with cholera by the end of the year in Yemen, a country where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

British charity Oxfam last week voiced alarm at what it described as "a runaway cholera epidemic" in Yemen, pointing out that the disease is currently killing nearly one person every hour.

In an effort to combat the spread of the contagious disease, a joint working group has been formed, with representation from the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Ministry of Water and Environment, WHO and UNICEF.

This group is overseeing "interventions to combat cholera", al-Kahlani said.

"The current efforts will not be able to stop the spread of the disease because the epidemic pyramid is on the rise and has not reached its peak yet," he added.

"The current interventions do not match the size of the epidemic and the huge epidemic pyramid," he added.

Efforts to combat cholera must be increased three-fold in order to contain the epidemic and prevent it from spreading, al-Kahlani said.

"I regret to say that the current interventions are slow, [and] insufficient," he said.

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