War-ravaged Yemen is experiencing what many are calling the start of a new epidemic problem with the spread of Dengue in the country. Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that has rapidly spread in Yemen due to poor-quality stagnant water which attracts the bug to come and reproduce.
Heavy rainfall, coupled with the ongoing conflict, is disrupting clean water supplies. Because of the disruptions, people use water basins to collect rainwater and these uncovered water sources combined with the rain have contributed to the spread of mosquitoes in the affected areas, resulting in an upsurge in suspected dengue cases.
According to a 14 January report from NGO Save the Children, 52,000 cases have been reported and there are real fears that if healthcare and water management are not improved this number will rise, along with the number of lives under threat.
The most affected areas are that of Hodeidah and Aden which have accounted for more than 60 percent of the deaths in the country.
The United Nations has described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the world’s largest relief operation is underway with more than 250 humanitarian agencies working through the UN response plan, reaching 12 million people each month.
Ongoing conflict has forced residents into cities in search for better health care. However, the health care systems are now at breaking point as Save the Children Hodeidah Field Manager Mariam Aldogani has said “Parents cannot afford to bring their children to the hospital or to buy the medication. Hospitals are full, and some patients are kept in hospitals having to lay on the floor because of a bed shortage…It’s really bad. Children as young as eight months have not been spared by the dengue fever. In some of the hospitals all you can hear are children crying in pain”.
Dengue is predicted to spread even further as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported last month “The weakness of the sanitation system the water resource pollution with the poor hygienic practices of the people and poverty might also increase the dengue spread. To address this scenario, the mitigation will include raising the awareness of the people on the best hygienic practices and the signs and preventive measures for dengue including vector control support”.
Yemen is already being ravaged by a waterborne Cholera outbreak with over 2 million suspected cases having been detected.
Fighting between a 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