Yemen cholera cases could jump to 300,000 by September: UN

Scanning electron microscope image of Vibrio cholerae. Credit: Wikipedia
A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen will probably have infected more than 300,000 people by September, up sharply from the current tally of nearly 193,000 cases, the United Nations said Friday.

"Probably at the end of August we will reach 300,000" cases, UN children's agency (UNICEF) spokeswoman Meritxell Relano told reporters in Geneva during a conference call.

Since the outbreak was declared in April, an estimated 1,265 people have died, she said.

"The number of cases continue to increase," Relano said, adding that all of the 21 governorates in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, have been affected.

She said children had been hit hard by the outbreak, accounting for half of the registered cases to date. But only a quarter of the people who have died so far were children.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.

Although the disease is easily treatable, doing so in conflict-torn Yemen has proved particularly difficult.

Two years of war between Shiite Huthi rebels and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab military coalition have killed more than 8,000 people and wounded 45,000 others.

According to the UN human rights agency, civilians account for nearly 5,000 of the recorded deaths and more than 8,500 of the injuries.

Saudi Arabia on Friday announced it was contributing $66.7 million towards an anti-cholera programme in Yemen run by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

The conflict has also devastated Yemen's infrastructure, leaving more than half of its medical facilities out of service.

Yemen is on the brink of famine, with about 17 million people—two-thirds of the population—uncertain of where their next meal will come from, the UN's World Food Programme says.

"This is the largest humanitarian crisis happening in the world at the moment," WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher told reporters.

She said the agency was scaling up its response and aimed to provide food aid to 6.8 million people across the country this month alone.

But more than half of those people will receive reduced rations because of a dire funding shortage, she warned.

© 2017 AFP

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