Through July 19, the number of cholera cases reported in Yemen has reached 368,207 suspected cases, including 1,828 deaths since Apr. 27. According to the humanitarian organization, Oxfam, the number of people with cholera in Yemen is now the largest ever in any country in a single year since records began, topping the previous annual record of 340,311 in Haiti in 2011.

Public domain image/Dartmouth
Public domain image/Dartmouth

Though there are signs that the increase in numbers is slowing, the country’s rainy season from July to September will increase the risk of the disease spreading further. It is feared that the total number of people infected could eventually rise to over 600,000, making it one of the largest outbreaks since records began in 1949.

Nigel Timmins, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director who has just returned back from a fact finding mission to Yemen, said: “It is quite frankly staggering that in just three months more people in Yemen have contracted cholera than any country has suffered in a single year since modern records began. Cholera has spread unchecked in a country already on its knees after two years of war and teetering on the brink of famine. For many people, weakened by war and hunger, cholera is the knockout blow.

“This is a massive crisis needing a massive response – if anything the numbers we have are likely to underestimate the scale of the crisis. So far funding from government donors to pay for the aid effort has been lackluster at best, less than half is what is needed.

“Cholera is easy to treat and simple to prevent. We need a massive, well-coordinated effort to get clean water, decent sanitation and simple things like soap to people to keep them safe from disease. We need an end to country entry restrictions of supplies and people so that we can get on with the job.

“The war has destroyed the economy and left millions without jobs or the means to earn a living, forcing 3 million people to flee their homes. It has precipitated a crisis which has left 7 million people on the brink of starvation. And the war has destroyed or damaged more than half the country’s health facilities as the cholera outbreak rages on.

“Vital public servants such as health workers have not been paid for nearly a year. Hospitals, ports, roads and bridges have been bombed. All this is crippling efforts to tackle the cholera crisis.

“Those countries providing the arms and military support, such as the U.S. and the U.K., are fueling a war that is causing wide-spread suffering and tipping a whole nation towards a catastrophe. It is hard to imagine how much more Yemen can take before it collapses entirely.”