One Million Malnourished Children in Yemen Caught in Cholera 'Hot Zones'

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (August 1, 2017) — More than a million children suffering from acute malnutrition are caught in areas of Yemen hardest hit by a deadly outbreak of cholera, Save the Children is warning.

The humanitarian organization’s new analysis reveals that more than 1,000,000 acutely malnourished children under the age of 5 – including almost 200,000 with severe acute malnutrition – are living in areas with high levels of infection.

Malnourished children have substantially reduced immune systems and are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera.

Diarrheal diseases like cholera are also a leading cause of malnutrition – raising fears that even if children survive the outbreak they could be pushed further toward starvation.

Save the Children is scaling up its response and sending more health experts to the worst hit areas, including Al Hali District in Hodeidah, which has the country’s highest number of suspected cholera cases.

The district also has an estimated 31,000 children in need of treatment for acute malnutrition, or more than a quarter of children under the age of five.

Lamia, a mother-of-six from Al Hali, lost two children to disease. Her 10-month-old baby girl, Arwa, is severely malnourished.

"Arwa is better than before, she used to not be able to move her hands and her legs were skinnier than this," Lamia told Save the Children at one of the organization’s malnutrition treatment centers in Al Hali.

"But she is lucky, two of my children died. One died when he was just two-and-a-half months old, he had very bad diarrhea."

More than 425,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported across Yemen, with 1,900 deaths. Children under the age of 15 make up an increasing proportion of both new cases (44 percent) and fatalities (32 percent).

Save the Children currently operates 14 cholera treatment centers and more than 90 rehydration units across the country, with 160 tons of additional cholera treatment supplies en route to Yemen.

"After two years of armed conflict, children are trapped in a brutal cycle of starvation and sickness. And it's simply unacceptable," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's Country Director for Yemen. "Our teams are dealing with a horrific scenario of babies and young children who are not only malnourished but also infected with cholera."

"The tragedy is that both malnutrition and cholera are easily treatable if you have access to basic health care. But hospitals and clinics have been destroyed, government health workers haven't been paid for almost a year, and the delivery of vital aid is being obstructed.

"Save the Children and others are saving lives where we can and with what we have – but we urgently need more help. Children must not pay for this conflict with their lives."

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