Cholera cases drop by a third in Yemen
| Updated Aug 28, 2017 at 3:00pm
A water system rehabilitated by UNICEF in Taizz City in Yemen. It will provide safe drinking water to nearly half a million people in and around the city. Photo: UNICEFYemen/2017/Esam.
The battle against cholera in Yemen is paying off, the UN said on Monday, amid a significant decline in the number of reported cases.
UN Children's Fund UNICEF said that "massive collective efforts" involving unpaid health workers and volunteers in the war-torn country have helped to slow the spread of the disease.
The agency has described the epidemic as the world's worst cholera outbreak, with well over half a million suspected cases and more than 2,000 deaths since April.
The one-third decline in the weekly number of cholera cases has been attributed to "heroic" ordinary Yemenis.
As part of a health awareness campaign, UN Children's Fund UNICEF says, more than 40,000 volunteers have gone door-to-door, reaching some 2.7 million families so far.
The aim is to spread information on water disinfection, handwashing, sanitation and food safety.
A quarter of a million people suffering from diarrhoea that's associated with cholera have also been provided with rehydration salts and referred for treatment.
But medical centres remain stretched to breaking point – and health workers unpaid – amid ongoing violence between coalition forces in support of President Abd Hadi and Houthi-backed fighters.
This has left more than half of all Yemen's health facilities out of service, while water and sanitation systems are collapsing.
Nearly 400,000 children are also suffering from severe acute malnutrition, heightening their risk of developing acute watery diarrhoea and cholera.
At a hospital in Aden in the south of the country, UNICEF described crowded conditions and not enough beds or essential medicine for what is an easily treatable disease.
The agency says that without support from the international community – and a peaceful political solution to the conflict – the fight against cholera is far from over.
To date, nearly 5,000 civilians are believed to have died in the conflict in Yemen.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva/GBC.