East Africa, Yemen: Preventable Cholera Claiming Lives At Alarming Rate

So far, the deadly disease has hit about 300,000 people in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and other countries.

“Conflict in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan has ruined health sectors and public water and sanitation networks, spreading cholera to too many places where we have not seen it before,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Cholera in 2017 is easily preventable and should belong only in the history books. Its return as a major killer today is an outrage.”

Cholera is also an easily treatable disease that attacks the digestive system causing diarrhoea and dehydration. But, without treatment, death can occur within hours. It spreads in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.

Yemen is worst hit with cholera having claimed 1500 lives across the country in just two months. More than 250,000 suspected cases of the deadly disease have been recorded, with over 200 new cases every hour. War and a drastically shrinking economy continue to cause devastating food shortages and widespread malnutrition in the country. This is leaving many Yemenis weakened and more vulnerable to disease. Millions in Yemen now live without access to clean water, sanitation or health services.   

Somalia is experiencing its largest outbreak of cholera in five years, with 763 deaths and 48,607 people diagnosed with cholera since January this year.

In South Sudan, 163 people died from cholera and 4,932 cases were reported this year, compared to zero cases recorded during the same period in 2016. Still recovering from famine, this is the first time a cholera outbreak is continuing over the dry season since the country’s independence.

Other nearby countries are also affected. In Kenya, four people have died from cholera, with a total of 146 infected as of 21 May.

In Ethiopia, 780 people have died from Acute Watery Diarrhoea. A total of 35,665 cases were recorded, mostly in eastern regions of the country, according to UNOCHA. Progress is being made in Ethiopia, where the number of cases has dropped 88 percent from April to end of May.

“Civilians, many of them children, are not dying from war wounds, but from a preventable disease. We need clean water and sanitation for hard hit communities and increased funding for the medical response, so that health care staff will have the tools and medicines they need to halt this cholera crisis,” said Egeland.

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