WHO: Yemen cholera cases soar past half-million

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SHAFAQNA-Cholera is believed to have affected more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 since late April, the World Health Organization said Monday.

A full 503,484 suspected cases and 1,975 deaths are attributable to the outbreak that erupted less than four months ago in the war-ravaged country, a WHO overview showed, AFP reported.

The UN health agency said the speed at which the deadly waterborne disease was spreading had slowed significantly since early July, but warned that it was still affecting an estimated 5,000 people each day.

The collapse of Yemen’s infrastructure after more than two years of war has allowed the country’s cholera epidemic to swell to the largest in the world.

The poor country has been facing war by a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015. Leading a number of its vassal states, Riyadh launched the military aggression on Yemen to eliminate the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall a Riyadh-friendly former president. The war, however, has failed to achieve either of the goals, morphing into a protracted conflict and causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The country’s main international airport in Sana’a is also blockaded, with access limited to a select few UN aid flights by the Saudi-led coalition, which controls the airspace.

WHO warned that the disease had spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, with millions of people cut off from clean water across the country.

“Yemen’s health workers are operating in impossible conditions,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough clean water,” he said, also lamenting that many of the doctors and nurses needed to rein in the outbreak had not been paid for nearly a year.

“They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives,” he said.

WHO said that it and its partners were “working around the clock” to support the national efforts to halt the outbreak, adding that more than 99 percent of people who contract cholera in Yemen can survive if they can access health services.

More than 15 million people in the country have no access to basic healthcare.

Tedros called on all sides in Yemen’s conflict to urgently seek a political solution.

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