The battle against cholera in Yemen is far from over, the Save the Children charity has warned: the first six months of 2019 have already seen more suspected cases than the whole of 2018, including 203,000 children under 15. At least 193 children have died of cholera related illnesses in the country in 2019.
The July 8 warning comes as the rainy season is likely to lead to an escalation in the outbreak - there is already flooding, and more heavy downpours threaten to intensify the spread of the waterborne disease.
The conflict in Yemen has disabled much of the infrastructure for clean water and sanitation, leaving some 9.2 million children without proper access to safe water. Fuel availability is fluctuating, limiting the pumping of sewage and garbage collection, leaving many parts of Yemen a breeding ground for infectious and water borne diseases such as cholera.
The UN describes Yemen as the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world", with millions of Yemenis facing imminent famine as well as battling cholera and diphtheria outbreaks.
Fighting between the Saudi-led Arab coalition backed by the US and UK, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has killed more than 10,000 people and caused over 40,000 casualties in Yemen since March 2015. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed in the fighting.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen said: “Disease outbreaks are now rife due to the collapse of the health system and weak sanitation systems and a population made increasingly vulnerable by forced displacement and malnutrition. The health system is under considerable stress, with only half of the health facilities functional while the rest of the facilities remaining closed or are partially functional.
The number of suspected cases has been relatively steady for some weeks, but the disease is endemic and we’re fearing a sharp spike because of the rains and flooding. As long as the conflict rages on, clean water systems are breaking down and funding of aid in Yemen remains too low, all we can do is try and keep as many children alive as possible.”