Yemen struggling under weight of cholera epidemic

By Sam Howard  |  Aug. 2, 2017 at 11:26 AM
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Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Two groups warned this week about the ongoing cholera epidemic in Yemen, reinvigorating calls for international humanitarian aid.

The groups said Yemen is battling a slew of other problems that, coupled with the cholera crisis, are taking their toll on the country's vulnerable citizens.

The United Nations, in a post Tuesday, said there have been at least 400,000 cholera cases in the country reported in the past few months. The cases have led to nearly 2,000 deaths.

The global children's advocacy group Save the Children also warned of Yemen's dire situation -- saying the epidemic is especially harming the very youngest Yemenis.

The group described "hot zones" where there are especially high rates of cholera. In those areas, it said, there are more than 1 million malnourished children under the age of 5 -- including almost 200,000 suffering from severe malnutrition.

If they contract cholera, those malnourished children are at least three times more likely to die because they already have weakened immune systems, Save the Children estimated.

The United Nations said the country's continued war, lack of proper sanitation systems, economic struggles and prevalent rates of poverty are worsening the cholera crisis' effects. Government forces have fought Houthi rebels for the last two years in Yemen.

The country is "racing towards the edge of a cliff," Auke Lootsma, U.N. Development Program Country Director, said. He also noted that 70 percent of Yemenis need humanitarian aid.

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

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