GENEVA – The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has ballooned to 1,410 within three weeks of the outbreak being declared, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as 18 months of war has destroyed most health facilities and clean water supplies.
Yemen’s Health Ministry announced the outbreak on Oct. 6 in Sanaa city, and by Oct. 10 the WHO said there were 24 suspected cases. The following day, a WHO official in Yemen said there was “no spread of the disease”.
But on Friday, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a Geneva news briefing that as of Thursday there were 1,410 suspected cholera cases in 10 out of Yemen’s 23 governorates – mostly in Taiz, Aden, Lahj, Hodeida and Sanaa.
The conflict between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group which controls much of northern Yemen, including Sanaa, has destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure, killed more than 10,000 people and displaced millions.
Cholera is only one risk in Yemen’s war but a rapid advance of the disease would add a new dimension to the humanitarian disaster which UNICEF says has left 7.4 million children in need of medical help and 370,000 at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
WHO said on Wednesday that only 47 of the suspected cases had tested positive for cholera and the outbreak had spread beyond the capital to nine other governorates.
Children under 10 accounted for half of the cases with six deaths from cholera and 36 associated deaths from acute watery diarrhea, the WHO said in the Oct. 26 report.
Although most suffers have no symptoms or mild symptoms that can be treated with oral rehydration solution, in more severe cases the disease can kill within hours if not treated with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.