1,000 Children Infected Every Day as Yemen Cholera Outbreak Spikes

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (March 26, 2019) - An alarming spike in suspected cholera cases in Yemen is infecting 1,000 children every day, Save the Children is warning.

40,000 new cases were reported in just the last two weeks, a spike of 150 percent compared to the same period last month. More than a third were children under the age of 15 – an average of 1,000 cases every day.

With heavy rains arriving, the outbreak is now set to spread even faster without urgent action, the humanitarian aid organization says.

The country’s worst outbreak in history infected more than a million people in 2017, but declined significantly at the start of 2018.

Since January this year, there have been 124,493 suspected cases of cholera nationwide, about half occurring in the last month.

Four years of war have created the perfect conditions for cholera to spread rapidly, with sanitation systems in ruins, water sources contaminated, and displaced families left without access to clean water.

Increasing rates of malnutrition have also left millions of Yemeni children more likely to contract – and die – from the disease.

Two million children under the age of five will need treatment for acute malnutrition this year, according to the United Nations.

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 themselves a major cause of malnutrition.

Save the Children has previously estimated 85,000 children under the age of five may have died from starvation and disease since the conflict escalated on March 26, 2015.

“A massive outbreak will be yet another killer for children left starved and weakened by four years of war,” Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director, said. The tragedy is that cholera can be easily prevented with access to clean water and basic hygiene. But that’s where we are right now. Yemen’s sewage system, which was already lacking before the conflict, is now almost non-existent. There’s an increasing number of people forced to camp out in unsanitary conditions simply to escape the fighting.

“All parties to this conflict, and those supporting them, must take the only responsible action which is to urgently reach a peaceful resolution. Yemen’s children cannot be made to wait while war and deadly disease rage around them.”

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in Yemen and donate to the response visit www.SavetheChildren.org/Yemen.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • 37,960 suspected cholera cases were reported during the two weeks from March 9-22, including 14,842 children aged under fifteen, according to the World Health Organization’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). That compares to 14,799 cases February 9-22, including 7,380 children under fifteen. A total of 124,493 suspected cases were reported from January 1 to March 22, including 59,137 children under fifteen.
  • Malnourished children are 6.3x (Severe Acute Malnutrition) and 2.9x (Moderate Acute Malnutrition) more likely to die from diarrheal diseases than well-nourished children. 

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