Beds are lined up in a hallway due to overcrowding in the paediatric ward at Al-Thawra Hospital, Sana’a, Yemen. Photo: Rajat Madhok / UNICEF

2 June 2017 (United Nations) – With about 70,000 cholera cases reported with nearly 600 fatalities in Yemen, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today warned that an already fire situation for children is turning into a disaster.

“Cholera doesn't need a permit to cross a checkpoint or a border, nor does it differentiate between areas of political control,” said UNICEF Regional Director, Geert Cappelaere, following his visit to the war-torn country.

“Cholera is spreading incredibly fast in Yemen […] The number of suspected cases is expected to reach 130,000 within the next two weeks,” he warned.

He said he witnessed harrowing scenes of children who were barely alive - tiny babies weighing less than two kilos – fighting for their lives at one of the few functioning hospitals he visited.

“But they are the lucky ones. Countless children around Yemen die every day in silence from causes that can easily be prevented or treated like cholera, diarrhoea or malnutrition,” he said.

He said health workers are racing against time to prevent cholera from killing more children. They are dedicated and committed, despite not receiving their salaries in almost nine months.

For its part, UNICEF has been working with partners to respond since the start of this outbreak four weeks ago, providing safe water to over 1 million people across Yemen and delivered over 40 tonnes of lifesaving medical equipment – including medicine, oral rehydration salts, intravenous fluids and diarrhoea disease kits.

He called for stepping up global support, as UNICEF urgently requires $16 million to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.

“But most importantly, it is time for parties to the conflict to prioritise the boys and girls of Yemen and put an end to the fighting through a peaceful political agreement. This is the ultimate way to save the lives of children in Yemen, and to help them thrive,” he said.

Cholera cases in Yemen may reach 130,000 in two weeks, UNICEF warns


A child with severe diarrhoea or cholera receives treatment at the Sab'een Hospital in Sana'a, Yemen,on 12 May 2017. Photo: Alzekri / UNICEF / UN065873

31 May 2017 (United Nations) – Amid an “unprecedented” increase in suspected cholera cases in war-torn Yemen – where medical facilities are teetering on the edge of collapse – the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has stepped up its response but warned that time may be “running out.”

“More and more children die every day in Yemen from preventable causes like malnutrition and cholera,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement yesterday.

“Anyone with a heart for children cannot let the situation continue. Stop the conflict [now],” he urged.

According to the UN agency, more than 65,000 suspected cases of the deadly disease have been reported in the country, of which about 10,000 were reported in the past 72 hours alone.

Some 532 people, including 109 children have succumbed to the disease over the past month. The numbers are feared to rise as more cases are verified.

Responding to the outbreak, UNICEF has sent in three aircrafts carrying over 40 metric tonnes of lifesaving supplies including medicines, oral rehydration salts (ORS), diarrhoea disease kits and intravenous fluids to treat more than 50,000 patients.

It is also helping provide chlorinated drinking water, disinfect wells and set up water filling stations and storage.

But needs continue to increase, with medicines and other vital medical equipment in short supply, said UNICEF.

This latest crisis comes as the country has been reeling under the effects of a conflict, now into its third year, that has rendered water treatment plants barely functional and water sources severely contaminated by sewage and uncollected garbage.

Half of the country’s health facilities aren’t working, and medical staff haven’t been paid for over eight months.

“The situation in Yemen is teetering on the verge of disaster […] 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,” underscored Meritxell Relaño UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

“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.”

Act before time runs out, urges UNICEF, as Yemen grapples with ‘unprecedented’ cholera outbreak

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