Thousands of ill children suffer through Yemen health crisis: UNICEF

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On May 12, 2017 at the Sab'een Hospital in Sana'a, Yemen, a child with severe diarrhoea or cholera receives treatment (Image Credit: UNICEF).

IN THE past 72 hours, the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has risen by 10,000 to a total of 65,300. Over 1,000 children suffering from acute watery diarrhoea have been reporting to health facilities every day.

In just one month, cholera has claimed at least the lives of 532 people, including 109 children. These numbers represent only verified cases and actual figures are expected to be much higher.

In response to the outbreak, UNICEF has sent in three aircraft carrying over 40 tonnes of lifesaving supplies including medicines, oral rehydration salts, diarrhea disease kits and intravenous fluids to treat more than 50,000 patients. But needs continue to increase, with medicines and other vital medical equipment in short supply.

“The situation in Yemen is teetering on the verge of disaster. The water, sanitation and health systems have all but collapsed. Over 27 million Yemenis are staring at an unforgiving humanitarian catastrophe. The biggest victims of this man-made tragedy are Yemen’s most vulnerable population – its children,” Dr. Meritxell Relaño UNICEF Representative in Yemen said.

“The international community needs to support long-term investments in social services like water and sanitation. Otherwise, deadly disease outbreaks will strike again and kill many more.”

With barely functional water treatment plants, sewage and uncollected garbage is gathering in residential areas and contaminating water sources. Two thirds of Yemen’s population have no access to safe drinking water.

Half of the country’s health facilities aren’t working, and medical staff haven’t been paid for over 8 months. Yemen’s weakened health system is completely overwhelmed by the scale of the cholera emergency.

UNICEF and partners are working around the clock to respond to the outbreak and have provided support to over 200 oral rehydration centres across the country where patients are screened and given immediate medical care. UNICEF is also supporting diarrhoea treatment centres for the most severe cases.

UNICEF is helping to provide chlorinated drinking water and to disinfect wells, water tanker filling stations, and water storage reservoirs.

Households have received basic hygiene information and been provided with water treatment tabs and hygiene kits containing soaps and washing powders.

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