More than 300,000 people in Yemen are believed to be infected with cholera, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced Monday, signaling a troubling milestone in the nation’s growing epidemic, which began in October. In the last ten weeks, cholera has claimed the lives of more than 1,600 people in Yemen, the ICRC said. On Sunday, the organization’s regional director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini, reported that the nation is witnessing around 7,000 new cases of cholera each day. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of these cases belong to children.
In June, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, called for a “massive aid effort” to address the epidemic, which by then was already killing one person every hour. By the end of the month, UNICEF and the World Bank responded to increased demand, delivering enough medical and water purification supplies to treat 10,000 people. While cholera is relatively simple to treat in most parts of the world, death can occur within hours if severely ill patients are left untreated.
“We are in a race against time,” UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Yemen, Sherin Varkey, said at the end of June. “Our teams are working with partners not only to provide treatment to the sick and raise awareness among communities, but also to rapidly replenish and distribute supplies and medicines.” While the outbreak has reached 22 out of 23 provinces in Yemen, around half of cholera cases have been identified in just four provinces: Sanaa, Hudaydah, Hajja, and Amran. On June 24, WHO declared Yemen’s epidemic “the worst cholera outbreak in the world.” Since then, around 100,000 new cases have been diagnosed.