Since mid-April, more than 100,000 people across conflict-torn Yemen, but particularly Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Sana’a City, have been affected by heavy rain and flash flooding that has contaminated water supplies, damaged roads, bridges and power, and cut access to basic services.
UNICEF has warned that over 5 million children under the age of five are facing a heightened threat of cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD). More than 110,000 cases of suspected cholera have been recorded across 290 of Yemen’s 331 districts since January 2020. Children under the age of five account for about 25 percent.
“Children in Yemen continue to face a myriad of threats to their survival. A further spread of cholera, high levels of malnutrition and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases compounded by COVID-19 will only exacerbate the burden that children and their families already face,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative in Yemen. “A tragedy continues to unfold in Yemen in the full glare of the world,” she added.
Humanitarian agencies have provided life-saving assistance including clean water, emergency health care, food packs and survival items. They also are working to help drain water and clean flooded sites and restore access to drinking water.
Very low levels of sanitation services especially in urban areas, use of contaminated water, lack of awareness about basic hygiene practices, including effective handwashing and food hygiene drive the spread of cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhoea and COVID where basic services are on a brink of collapse or in best cases are inadequately maintained due to the conflict and years of poverty and neglect.
“Cholera and acute watery diarrhoea are preventable and can be treated. Our response, therefore, focuses on making sure families and their communities have sustained access to clean water and improved sanitation, while also being aware of how they can reduce the health risks...Without an end to the brutal five-year-old long conflict in Yemen, these devastating preventable disease outbreaks will continue to stalk the lives of many, and first and foremost vulnerable children", said Nyanti.
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.
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Nearly 80 per cent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine and 7 million people are malnourished. It has been warned that of the UN’s 41 major humanitarian programmes in the country, 31 will either reduce or shut unless funding is urgently received.