Cholera cases and deaths continue to rise at alarming levels across Yemen since April 27, 2017. In only two months, 1146 fatalities have been reported in Yemen due to the epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Tuesday, June 21, over 166,000 cases have been reported since the epidemic broke out in late April. The cholera epidemic has affected more than 80 percent of Yemen’s governorates.
On May 22, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) deemed the situation “extremely alarming” and warned that international efforts to fight the outbreak are insufficient. The Houthi-held capital Sana’a remains in a state of emergency, but the Hajjah governorate (northwest) is the most affected.
Yemen has been engaged in a complex and deadly conflict since Houthi rebels started fighting the international coalition-backed government in 2015.
In early 2017, the United Nations humanitarian aid office in Yemen announced that the civilian death toll had reached 10,000, with another 40,000 people wounded and ten million in need of emergency assistance. According to the UN, the country is on the brink of famine, with seven million people going hungry. Approximately 18.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and the crisis has placed an overwhelming strain on the country's health system. Major health facilities have been destroyed in the conflict and aid deliveries are often blocked by rebels, stolen, or destroyed. The port of Al-Hodeida, one of the largest ports of the country, is blocked by rebels and threatened by the conflict, which prevents international aid from entering the country.
Cholera is an infectious disease caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria that can induce acute diarrhea. The risk of death is greatest among people with compromised immune systems, such as malnourished children or those living with HIV. However, even among healthy adults, cholera can be fatal within a matter of hours.
To reduce the risk of contracting cholera, wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods. Seek immediate medical care if you believe you may have contracted the disease. The security environment in Yemen remains complex.
Due to poor security conditions, many Western governments strongly advise their citizens against all travel to Yemen. Travel to the country should only be considered with proper security protocols in place.