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Cholera Outbreak in Yemen Reaches One Million In ‘A Hideous Milestone’

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In the eight months or so that cholera first began spreading in Yemen, the waterborne disease has put a terrible toll on the war-torn country’s population – a whopping one million have caught it.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Thursday that of those who had contracted cholera, more than 2,200 people have died of the disease, a third of whom were children, the World Health Organization estimates.

The ICRC was left nearly speechless, elaborating by saying,

This is devastating.

While cholera can kill a person within hours, under most circumstances, it is a preventable and treatable disease, given enough medical attention. Dr. David Sack of Johns Hopkins University said, “A patient with cholera should never die. If they get to a treatment center in time, if they still have a breath, we can save their life.”

But years of war have left Yemen in an unstable condition, NPR reports. Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition backed by the US has conducted airstrikes to battle the Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group that has grabbed large areas of the country, including the capital.

Yemeni civilians have been caught in the crossfire, suffering from no food supplies, inaccessibility to clean water and grossly lacking medical facilities. The British Red Cross reports that less than 45% of hospitals and clinics are still operational.

The result is what international aid groups are calling the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” with over 10,000 deaths in the ongoing violence, over 8 million people nearing famine, a diphtheria outbreak threatening to spread, and over 80% of Yemenis without food, clean water and health care.

The number of suspected cholera cases continues to rise. With proper treatment, the number of people who have died remains low compared to those who have contracted it. Johan Mooij of CARE said, “But there’s one major condition: You need clean water. If there’s no fuel coming into the country to make the water pumps work, then people will have to go back to filthy water again. That will make cholera increase again.”

The ICRC said that to have reached one million cases in such a short time is “a hideous milestone in the 21st century.”

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