Lina* (8 months) visits a Save the Children supported health facility in Amran to receive treatment for malnutrition. Two of her siblings have already died due to illness.  Photo Credit: Mohammed Awadh/ Save the Children. July 2018

Lina* (8 months) visits a Save the Children supported health facility in Amran to receive treatment for malnutrition. Two of her siblings have already died due to illness.

A Siege of Hodeidah Could Have Devastating Consequences, Warns Save the Children

Malnutrition and risk of a severe cholera outbreak could endanger the lives of thousands

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 25, 2018) – Yemen could be on the brink of a deadly new cholera epidemic that could affect thousands of people in the coming weeks unless urgent action is taken, Save the Children is warning.

Save the Children is becoming increasingly concerned that Hodeidah city could be besieged as the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition makes advances in northern Yemen and continues to consolidate gains around the south of the city. This could potentially cut off Hodeidah city, its port and its people from the rest of the country.

Conditions are ideal for cholera to spread rapidly in the hot summer months, with almost 3,000 suspected cases reported in the first week of July across the country – the highest number seen since the start of the year.

Clean drinking water in Hodeidah was already scarce, but supplies have been further ravaged since the offensive by the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition to capture the province began in June. Fighting by all parties has badly damaged water and sewerage pipes. Shelling and bombing have also hit water treatment plants and pipes.

In the al-Mighlaf district of Hodeidah the number of new cholera cases increased by more than 110 percent between mid-May and mid-June. The district lies just north of Hodeidah port, through which 80 percent of all of Yemen’s supplies enter.

Even a small uptick in cases in Hodeidah poses a grave risk to other parts of Yemen. More than 245,000 people have already fled the governorate to neighboring areas, with some escaping to makeshift camps that have no sanitation and no running water – conditions that could lead to a cholera outbreak.

 “Cholera could spread rapidly in Yemen, potentially infecting thousands of children and completely devastating the already crippled health system,” Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children said.

Undernourished children are far more likely to contract cholera. The disease causes violent vomiting and diarrhea and is especially deadly for children under five years and those whose immune systems have been badly compromised by malnutrition. 

Hodeidah was a hotspot of last year's cholera outbreak, with nearly 164,000 suspected cases out of more than one million reported nationwide. More than 2,300 people, many of them children, died in that epidemic, which started in April 2017.

“We are terrified of another outbreak as the number of cholera cases is increasing day-by-day,” Dr. Mariam Aldogani, a Save the Children doctor in Hodeidah, said. “Just six weeks ago we were going to close many of our cholera treatment centers but given the surge of cases we have to keep them open. Current conditions mean that it could be difficult to keep the number of cases under control. Water chlorination isn’t a durable solution, the summer heat is relentless, there’s trash lining the streets and the health system is bursting at the seams.” 

“The number of suspected cholera cases in the health facility where I work has increased significantly over the past two months,” a Save the Children health worker in Hodeidah said. “Some of the people who arrive at the health center suffering from suspected cholera are from the same family which isn’t a good sign. It means cholera is spreading quickly through families and communities and we urgently need to confront it and help vulnerable people who don’t even have enough money to pay for the bus fare to hospital.”   

The war in Yemen is now in its fourth year and has left 11.3 million children in need of humanitarian assistance. Schools and hospitals have been caught in the crossfire and fighting has prevented access to food, fuel, clean water and medical supplies. Nearly 8 million children are now going hungry every day and almost a third of under-fives are acutely malnourished. With 40 percent of the population aged under 15, this is truly a children’s emergency. More than 80 percent of people rely on aid agencies for essentials such as food and healthcare.

“With more than 22 million people needing help, Yemen is now the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and the tragedy is that the crisis is entirely man-made,” added Miles. “Fighting must stop and we need a political solution to the conflict. We call on all parties to the conflict to engage in good faith with the UN Special Envoy, commit to a ceasefire and bring about a peaceful end to this war.

“There is no time to waste. Aid agencies need unimpeded humanitarian access to save lives. The international community must also step up its support so that we can prevent another outbreak of cholera.” 

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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