Health System in Yemen at Breaking Point as Cholera Spreads at Unprecedented Rate

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With one in every 200 Yeminis now being suspected of having been infected with cholera, the health system in the country is at a breaking point. More than 5,000 suspected new cases have been reported daily during the past week and the spread of the disease, which started just over a month ago, is rapidly accelerating. See the ICRC’s full news release.

"Two years of armed conflict have brought Yemen's health system to the brink of collapse. This cholera outbreak is only the most recent, and most visible, proof that people and structures have been seriously weakened by the way this conflict is being waged," said the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen, Alexandre Faite. "The attacks on and lack of maintenance of the water and sewage systems in addition to the severe restrictions on the import of critical goods such as spare parts and fuel, have led to a situation where millions of people have no access to clean water."

According to the health authorities in the capital, Sana'a, the number of suspected cases nationwide exceeded 124,000 two days ago, with more than 900 people dead as a result of infection.

The ICRC, in conjunction with the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS), has swiftly responded to a crisis that led the health authorities in Sana'a to declare a state of emergency on May 14. The response includes supporting health facilities and detention centers, providing large quantities of chlorine, IV fluids and other medical supplies, improving case management, overall hygiene and sanitation conditions, and raising cholera awareness among the general public.  

The ICRC is also bringing 200,000 vials of insulin to Sana'a and Aden, to support health structures that are struggling to treat patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

Related: Yemen: War in the time of Cholera

Read Robert Mardini's interview on Yemen with PRI: The World.