Yemen calls for help to treat cholera outbreak

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

A Yemeni woman suspected of being infected with cholera lies on the ground at al-Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa on June 13th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

A Yemeni woman suspected of being infected with cholera lies on the ground at al-Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa on June 13th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

With the number of cholera deaths in Yemen now estimated at 1,265, the country's Health Ministry has urged international organisations to honour their commitments to help combat the outbreak.

The UN on Friday (June 23rd) warned that the cholera outbreak could infect more than 300,000 people in Yemen by the end of August, up from nearly 193,000 cases today, AFP reported.

Since the outbreak was declared in April, an estimated 1,265 people have died, according to UN children's agency spokeswoman Meritxell Relano.

"The number of cases continues to increase," she said, adding that all of Yemen's 21 provinces have been affected and that children have been hit hard by the outbreak, accounting for half of the registered cases to date.

The ministry stressed the need for concerted government efforts to reach out to donors and international organisations, asking them to meet their commitments to help treat the sick and stem the spread of the disease.

"Yemen is facing a highly complex health crisis because of the circumstances in the country due to the war, which has led to the collapse of the health system," ministry spokesman Abdul Hakeem al-Kahlani told Al-Mashareq.

"A part of the health system still operates, but with very little resources," he said.

Health system under strain

"Yemen's health system has collapsed," said UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)-Yemen information officer Zaid al-Alaya.

About 45% of the system has ceased operations altogether, he told Al-Mashareq, "while the other 55% is operating at a minimum due to lack of resources".

Despite the paucity of resources, however, humanitarian organisations are doing their best to support Yemen's health sector, al-Alaya said.

With the recent arrival of "26 tonnes of medical supplies" in Sanaa airport, he said, "the medical supplies now represent 30% of the needs".

Meanwhile, at Sanaa's al-Sabaeen Hospital, patients awaiting treatment are sitting on the hospital floors, due to the large influx of people displaying symptoms of the disease, Dr. Nabil al-Najjar told Al-Mashareq.

"The World Health Organisation has set up tents in the hospital's yard to accommodate the big rise in cases, whether suspected or confirmed," he said.

Al-Najjar urged donors and international organisations to come to the aid of Yemen's health system by providing it with medical supplies that will allow it to function and limit the spread of cholera and other infectious diseases.

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