Death toll from cholera outbreak in Yemen hits 1,500

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The death toll from a cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen has risen to more than 1,500, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports. Nearly a quarter of a million people have fallen ill as a result of the outbreak.

The number of people who have died stood at 1,517 on Friday, according to an update on Saturday from the World Health Organization. A total of 246,867 people are believed to have suffered from the illness since the end of April.

While cholera is endemic in Yemen, the country has experienced a surge in cholera cases since April 27, with nearly 5,000 cases per day. Ongoing conflict, destroyed health, water and sanitation infrastructure as well as malnutrition have caused people to be more vulnerable to diseases.

About one quarter of those who died are children, according to the United Nations.

International health organizations, including WHO, are working to contain the outbreak by setting up diarrhea treatment facilities and oral dehydration centers. They are also training health workers to manage cases and deploy rapid response teams to coordinate the response.

“This deadly cholera outbreak is the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict,” WHO and the UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a joint statement in June. They added that some 14.5 million people have been cut off from regular access to clean water and sanitation.

In late May, a senior UN official warned that Yemen was facing “total social, economic and institutional collapse” as 17 million people are food insecure, including 6.8 million people who are one step away from famine. “Crisis is not coming. It is here today – on our watch,” he said.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.

Although response measures can help contain its spread, the most effective way of fighting the disease is to tackle its cause by ensuring access to clean water and raising awareness of the importance of sanitation and hygiene standards.

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