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Published: Fri, July 28, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

Yemen: Millions at risk if aid agencies not given better access

Yemen: Millions at risk if aid agencies not given better access

Suspected cholera illnesses in Yemen's outbreak have now topped 400,000 cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, as leaders from three United Nations (UN) agencies wrapped up a visit to the country, which is torn by conflict and starvation.

The UN agency heads underscored that the delivery of food supplements and medical supplies is ongoing, as is the rebuilding of infrastructure, including hospitals, health centres and the water- sanitation network.

It is now gripped by the worst recorded cholera outbreak in history which more than 400,000 people are suspected of contracting.

"The country is on the brink of starvation, with over 60 per cent of the population not knowing where their next meal will come from", said UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

While the United Nations officials also offered hope - noting that more than 99 percent of cholera-infected people with access to health services are surviving and the number of children afflicted with severe acute malnutrition this year was estimated to be 385,000 - they maintained that as thousands fall sick every day, the situation remains dire. More than 60 percent of the population remains uncertain of their next meal as starvation looms. "A vicious combination", continued the statement. He said that the country's health system is in shambles, salaries have not been paid for at least ten months, rubbish is piling up in the streets and hospitals, water stations and other vital infrastructure have been attacked and destroyed by the Saudis.

"Every day, we receive severe cases that come with complicated conditions, but we manage to save the lives of majority. For many people, weakened by war and hunger, cholera is the knockout blow".

A Saudi-led multinational coalition, backed by the US and United Kingdom, launched a military campaign in support of the Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in March 2015 after he was ousted by Houthi rebels.

Global donors pledged around £1.5 billion in aid earlier this year but only a third of it has been disbursed, the United Nations said earlier this month.

Impoverished Yemen has remained in a state of civil war since 2014, when the Houthis and their allies overran capital Sanaa and other parts of the country.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with a particular strain of bacteria, 'Vibrio cholera'.

Speaking of the need to support processes of dialogue and emphasising the need for courageous gestures he implored worldwide actors to foster reconciliation in Yemen.

In severe cases, the disease can kill within hours if left untreated.

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