Despite the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in areas held by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen, it has yet to “rival” cholera, which according to health sources, has infected over 150,000 people in just five months.
United Nations and rights agencies have warned that disease outbreaks in areas held by the Houthis could leave hundreds of thousands of people at risk, especially given the militias’ administrative corruption and looting of humanitarian aid.
The health sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that since the beginning of the year, cholera has infected over 150,000 people in the Houthi-controlled provinces of Sanaa, Ibb, Dhamar, Hajjah and al-Mahwit. The death toll has reached 2,400.
The sources warned that cholera would spread further if the necessary health precautions are not taken, especially given the seasonal rain witnessed in Yemen that is the main catalyst in spreading diseases.
This is the third cholera outbreak to hit the country since 2016 and 2017. It could not come at a worse time as health, sanitation and sewage services have been severely impacted by the Houthi coup, which has devastated the country’s entire infrastructure.
The seasonal rain has brought with it flooding that has affected several regions. With the flooding come the diseases.
A pediatrician in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that cholera was one of the dangerous diseases that causes diarrhea and possibly death within a few hours if the patient is not treated right.
The majority of fatalities, he revealed, are children under the age of five who were suffering from severe malnutrition.
Speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals, he said that he receives cholera patients on a regular daily basis, which is a cause for alarm.
With health facilities struggling to cope with coronavirus patients, even turning some away at Houthi orders, cholera has only added to the people’s misery.
One Sanaa resident recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat the struggle his family had to endure due to the cholera, saying three of his children were infected.
He sought to have them treated at a public facility, but was surprised when he was turned away by the administration, which said it had received orders by the Houthis to only treat coronavirus cases.
The resident said he has no choice but to treat his children at home. Two recovered, but the third, a 15-month old succumbed to the disease due to his young age and weak immunity.