More than 313,000 people are ill with cholera in Yemen and more than 1,700 have lost their lives to the disease, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced Tuesday.
Cholera is a bacterial disease that causes dehydration and diarrhea, and, if left untreated, it can kill within hours, according to the World Health Organization. Robert Mardini, ICRC's regional director for the Middle East, said the four most affected areas are Sana'a, Hodeida, Hajjah and Amran, and there are about 7,000 new cases every day.
Meanwhile, two years of civil war have decimated the health care system, with only 45 percent of hospitals operational in the country and limited access to proper medicine and medical supplies.
Dr. Sherin Varkey of UNICEF, in an interview with NPR on July 4, said the outbreak is a direct result of the continuous civil war, malnutrition levels rising, a crumbling economy and "an almost totally collapsed health, water and sanitation system."
"We know that clean water is essential to prevent the spread of cholera, and that has remained the challenge," Varkey continued. "Many of the public water pumping stations have come to a standstill due to the lack of fuel or simply due to the lack of workers not being paid their regular salaries. In addition, poor environmental hygiene has also resulted in further fueling the spread of this outbreak."
On May 5, the Ministry of Health and Population in Sana'a declared a state of emergency to address the cholera crisis. In a joint statement from Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, and Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general the World Health Organization, in a joint statement on June 24 labeled it "the worst cholera outbreak in the world."
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