Over Five million children under the age of five in Yemen are facing a heightened threat of cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) as the country continues to experience increased heavy rains since mid-April.
More than 110,000 cases of suspected cholera have been recorded across 290 of Yemen’s 331 districts since January 2020. Children under the age of five account for a quarter of these cases.
The United Nations Children’s Fund( UNICEF) warned of the growing risks to the lives of five million children under the age of five in Yemen as a result of cholera epidemic and acute watery diarrhea with heavy rains increasing since mid-April.
UNICEF Resident Representative in Yemen Sarah Beslu Nyanti said in a statement received by the Yemeni agency (Saba) “The tragedy in Yemen continues to unfold to the world in all its manifestations, and Yemen’s children are still exposed to countless threats to their survival.”
“The spread of cholera, high levels of malnutrition, vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks and the current Coved-19 pandemic are all causes that may exacerbate the burden on children and their families,” she added.
Nyanti Pointed out “If there is no end to the conflict in Yemen, the devastating and preventable diseases will continue to kill many lives, especially children.”
Recent heavy rains and flash floods in Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Sana’a City have interrupted access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and destroyed homes and displaced families, providing a perfect recipe for the spread of cholera.
UNICEF has responded urgently to families affected by the floods by providing basic hygiene kits, including disinfectants, chlorine, buckets and towels. The response also focuses on the repair of the disrupted water infrastructure to restore immediate access to safe drinking water for children and their families.
Very low levels of sanitation services especially in urban areas, use of contaminated water, lack of awareness about basic hygiene practices, including effective handwashing and food hygiene drive the spread of cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhoea in Yemen where basic services are on a brink of collapse or in best cases are inadequately maintained due to the conflict and years of poverty and neglect.
In 2017, UNICEF and partners like the World Health Organization (WHO) managed to contain one of the world’s worst cholera outbreaks through a combination of community awareness; Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH); and Health response, including strengthening of surveillance and case detection, deploying rapid response teams to several affected areas and scaling up treatment of cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhea, measures that will continue this year to alleviate the suffering of children and families.
“Without an end to the brutal five-year old long conflict in Yemen, these devastating preventable disease outbreaks will continue to stalk the lives of many, and first and foremost vulnerable children.”