GENEVA (Reuters) – Another wave of cholera could hit Yemen, where a coalition blockade led by Saudi Arabia has cut off fuel supplies for hospitals, water pumps and vital supplies for hungry children, the country said on Sunday. World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr. Nevio Zagaria, WHO representative in Yemen, told Reuters that 16 percent of Yemeni children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, including 5.2 percent with a serious life-threatening form, and the problem is increasing.
Yemen, where 8 million people face famine, is embroiled in a proxy war between the Houthi armed movement aligned with Iran and the US-backed military coalition. UU That according to the United Nations has led to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
About 960,000 suspected cases of cholera and 2,219 deaths have been reported since the epidemic began in April, according to WHO figures.
Children account for almost a third of waterborne infections, spread by food or water contaminated with human feces, which cause acute diarrhea and dehydration and can kill within hours if left untreated.
Although the number of new cases has declined for 11 consecutive weeks, 35 districts in Yemen still report cholera with "high attack rates" in the communities, Zagaria said.
A deteriorating economic situation and lack of potable water, due to sewer systems in many cities that lack fuel for the pumps, have aggravated the humanitarian crisis, he said.
"This is a perfect mix to have a new explosion of a cholera epidemic at the beginning of the rainy season in March next year," Zagaria said in a telephone interview from Sanaa, in the middle of four days of clashes in the capital .
WHO is working with local authorities on both the internationally recognized government and Sana & # 39; a controlled by Houthi to identify the areas most at risk of an increase in the cholera epidemic and increase defenses, he said.
An oral cholera vaccination campaign, initially planned last July during an acute phase and then abandoned by authorities, is now being reconsidered, but as a preventive measure next year, he said.
Meanwhile, a ship carrying 35 tons of surgical and medical supplies from the WHO is being diverted to Aden after waiting for weeks to unload at the Hodeidah port, Zagaria said.
"We hope and hope that the situation of the blockade will be resolved, we have an opening to the humanitarian blockade, but the opening to the commercial blockade is only partial," he added.
The United Nations appealed on Friday to the coalition to lift its blockade completely to Yemen, which was partially alleviated last week to allow aid to Hodeidah and Salif, and UN flights to Sanaa .
The military coalition backed by the US UU It closed air, land and maritime access on November 6 in a move it said was to stop the flow of Iranian weapons to the Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen.
Shipments of aid cover only a fraction of Yemen's needs, since almost all food, fuel and medicine are imported commercially.
CONSTANT FLOW OF PATIENTS
Yemen's health system has practically collapsed, and most health workers have not received payment for seven months.
WHO supports 130 hospitals across the country, providing fuel, water, oxygen, medicines, medical supplies and essential equipment, Zagaria said.
"The (fuel) contractors with whom we are working have difficulty maintaining stocks," he said, noting that some hospitals require 60,000 liters of fuel per month.
WHO administers 15 stabilization centers for children with severe acute malnutrition with medical complications and is expanding with 10 more, Zagaria said.
"We see that there is a constant flow of patients recently admitted to these centers.
" The deterioration of the situation in terms of malnutrition in children is increasing … It is very difficult to quantify with precise numbers ", said Zagaria, who went to the intensive care unit of the Pediatric Pavilion in Sadaa last week.
"I am a pediatrician, I worked for many years in Africa. It does not need to take weight and height. "
Stephanie Nebehay's information; Susan Fenton's edition