The cholera epidemic sweeping across Yemen is currently the worst such outbreak in the world. From 27 April to 16 July 2017, 351,045 suspected cholera cases and 1,790 deaths (CFR: 0.5%) have been reported in 91.3% (21/23) of Yemen governorates, and 88% (293/333) of the districts.

Yemen map/L'Américain
Yemen map/L’Américain

Children and the elderly are the most affected; children under the age of 15 account for 40 per cent of suspected cases and a quarter of the deaths while those aged over 60 represent 30 per cent of fatalities.

Cholera is endemic to Yemen, but the current outbreak is the direct consequence of more than two years of heavy conflict that has moved an already weak and impoverished country towards social, economic and institutional collapse.

The war has decimated Yemen’s health system, damaged key infrastructure and cut off 15.7 million people from access to adequate clean water and sanitation. In the last 10 months, about 30,000 health and sanitation workers have not received their salaries; only a third of critical medical supplies have entered the country compared to the period before March 2015; and garbage has piled up in the cities.

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Indeed, the current numbers of cholera cases are likely to be an underrepresentation of the magnitude of the epidemic since only 45 per cent of health facilities are effectively functioning and surveillance systems are weak.