Filth spreads Yemen's deadly cholera outbreak

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen's cholera outbreak is so widespread that just drinking water can lead to death.

Nearly 2,000 people have already succumbed to one of the worst recorded outbreaks of cholera in modern history, with over 400,000 having contracted the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Cholera, a diarrheal disease spread by ingestion of food or water tainted with human faeces, can kill within hours if untreated. It has been largely eradicated in developed countries equipped with sanitation systems and water treatment.

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But Yemen's devastating civil war, pitting a Saudi-led military coalition against the armed Houthi group, and economic collapse has made it extremely difficult to deal with catastrophes such as cholera and mass hunger.

With stinking green watery filth mingled with trash being a common sight in the capital Sanaa, the government is struggling to control the spread of the disease.

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Filthy conditions worsen cholera outbreak
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Filthy conditions worsen cholera outbreak
A girl stands by jerrycans on a street where a charity tanker truck delivers free drinking water, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A boy pushes a wheelbarrow filled with jerrycans after collecting drinking water from a charity tap, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A worker sprays pesticides at a sewage treatment plant, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Drugs lie on shelves at a cholera treatment centre in Sanaa, Yemen, July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Mechanics fix a turbine at a sewage treatment plant in Sanaa, Yemen, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A public health worker sprays insecticide, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
Young men relax in a jacuzzi at a health club in Sanaa, Yemen, July 16, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A man infected with cholera lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A boy stands in the middle of an insecticide cloud as a public health worker sprays insecticide, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A volunteer carries hygiene kits provided by UNICEF, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
People sit on a bench as a woman lies on the ground outside a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Nurses tend to a boy who is suspected of being infected with cholera at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A woman with suspected cholera infection lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A man infected with cholera lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A woman holds her son who is suspected of being infected with cholera at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A view of a treated water basin at a sewage treatment plant in Sanaa, Yemen, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A nurse tends to children held by their mothers inside a tent at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
Health workers do paperwork as they receive people with suspected infection of cholera at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A worker cleans a swimming pool at at a health club in Sanaa, Yemen, July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A woman fills a bottle with drinking water at the house of Ahmad al-Sewari, who was infected with cholera, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
An open-air sewage channel is seen, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
People gather to fill up their jerrycans with drinking water from a charity tanker truck, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A sink is seen outside a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
Women carry jerrycans after they filled them up with drinking water from a charity tap, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Artist and activist Thiyazen al-Alawi paints a mural on a wall of a hospital as part of a cholera awareness campaign in Sanaa, Yemen, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
People collect drinking water from a public tap, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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Pumps to sanitize the water supply sit idle for lack of fuel, while maintenance agencies tasked with chlorinating aquifers go without salaries and supplies.

Since Yemen's government took control of central bank funds, it no longer pays most civil servants in Houthi-held lands. This means that most of those working in and around Sanaa have not been paid for six months, ruining the lives of hospital and sanitation workers.

Meanwhile, the parched and mountainous country is in danger of running out of water, leaving its 28 million mostly impoverished citizens facing another crisis.

A dearth of clean water has forced many residents to queue up and fill jerry cans from water trucks.

The United Nations estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, two million people have fled fighting near their homes and only half of hospitals have staff and supplies to function normally.

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