Yemen has more than 300K cases of cholera, International Red Cross says


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.

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Deadly cholera outbreak in Yemen
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Deadly cholera outbreak in Yemen

A Yemeni child lies on a mattress in hospital hallway as patients suspected of being infected with cholera receive treatment in Sanaa on May 6, 2017. At least 570 suspected cases of cholera have surfaced in war-torn Yemen in the past three weeks, sparking fears of a potential epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said. Healthcare has dramatically deteriorated in Yemen as conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported government continues to escalate, leaving hospitals destroyed and millions struggling to find access to food and clean water.

(MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A girl pushes a wheel cart with water jerrycans past a pile of rubbish bags on a street during a strike by garbage collectors demanding delayed salaries in Sanaa, Yemen May 8, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A cholera-infected man reacts as he lies on a hospital bed in Sanaa, Yemen May 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Yemenis suspected of being infected with cholera receive treatment at a hospital in Sanaa on May 6, 2017. At least 570 suspected cases of cholera have surfaced in war-torn Yemen in the past three weeks, sparking fears of a potential epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said. Healthcare has dramatically deteriorated in Yemen as conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported government continues to escalate, leaving hospitals destroyed and millions struggling to find access to food and clean water. 

(MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A Yemeni child suspected of being infected with cholera receives treatment at a hospital in Sanaa on May 6, 2017. At least 570 suspected cases of cholera have surfaced in war-torn Yemen in the past three weeks, sparking fears of a potential epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said. Healthcare has dramatically deteriorated in Yemen as conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported government continues to escalate, leaving hospitals destroyed and millions struggling to find access to food and clean water. 

(MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A cholera-infected girl lies on a bed at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Young Yemenis suspected of being infected with cholera receive treatment at a hospital in Sanaa on May 6, 2017. At least 570 suspected cases of cholera have surfaced in war-torn Yemen in the past three weeks, sparking fears of a potential epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said. Healthcare has dramatically deteriorated in Yemen as conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported government continues to escalate, leaving hospitals destroyed and millions struggling to find access to food and clean water. 

(MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Rubbish bags pile up on a street during a strike by garbage collectors demanding delayed salaries in Sanaa, Yemen May 8, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Relatives sit next to a sick man waiting to be admitted to a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A girl infected with cholera sits on a chair at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A Yemeni woman sits with a child as patients suspected of being infected with cholera receive treatment at a hospital in Sanaa on May 6, 2017. At least 570 suspected cases of cholera have surfaced in war-torn Yemen in the past three weeks, sparking fears of a potential epidemic, Doctors Without Borders said. Healthcare has dramatically deteriorated in Yemen as conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported government continues to escalate, leaving hospitals destroyed and millions struggling to find access to food and clean water. 

(MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A man sits as he waits for a cholera-infected relative at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Women help a young relative infected with cholera at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A boy infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A boy and his mother, both infected with cholera, lie on a bed at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Cholera-infected children lie on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A woman sits next to her cholera-infected daughter at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Women accompany cholera-infected children at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A woman looks from behind bars of a hospital ward allocated for cholera-infected patients in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A nurse tends to a cholera-infected patient at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

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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."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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