A Yemeni doctor, Mohammed Abdul-Mughni, died of cholera after two weeks that he had been working in a temporary diarrhoea treatment centre in the grounds of a hospital in Sanaa where around 120 to 150 severe cases arrived every day.
Abdul-Mughni described the surge in cholera cases he was treating as “disastrous’’ in a country battered by years of war and short of medical staff.
Workers spray pesticides during an anti-cholera campaign in Sanaa, Yemen on March 21, 2019.
Yemen is suffering its third major outbreak of the water-borne bacterial infection since the conflict broke out in 2015, causing the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis that has put 10 million people on the brink of famine.
The disease is spreading like “wild-fire’’, according to the United Nations which recorded 110,000 suspected cholera cases and 200 deaths in three months.
“We are taking in patients around the clock, constantly, Cholera is spreading widely now.
““In the past two weeks we have admitted around 1,100 confirmed cholera cases,” said Ismail Mansoury, a doctor who worked alongside the late Abdul-Mughni.
Cholera causes profuse diarrhoea and fluid loss which can kill within hours.
Children, the elderly and those weakened by years of poor nutrition are most at risk.
The centre outside the capital’s Sabaeen hospital has tents, outdoor toilets and overworked staff.
Listless women on drips take up every spot of available shade.
Elderly ladies and children lie on gravel.
A man helps a boy up a large step to use a latrine.
Many of those arriving are in shock or have kidney failure, with veins so shrivelled by dehydration it is difficult to insert a needle to administer lifesaving fluids.
The four-year-old war that pits the Iran-aligned Houthi movement against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government has crippled the healthcare system and economy, forcing people to travel long distances to seek medical care.
Water resources are scarce in the poorest Arabian peninsula nation and pumps are needed in many parts of the country of 30 million people to bring water to the surface.
Fuel shortages have dramatically increased the price of clean water.
The outbreak coincides with an early start to Yemen’s rainy season but is also a sign of the war’s degradation of public infrastructure.
“There is an issue with waste disposal in the country. We know that many communities don’t have proper sewerage water systems in place.
“That sewage water is being used for irrigation and other purposes,” World Health Organisation spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said.
Increased awareness about the disease could also account for more reported cases this year, he added.
The war has cut transport routes for aid, fuel and food, reduced imports and caused severe inflation.
Households have lost incomes because public sector wages are not being paid and conflict has forced people from their homes and jobs.
The UN and aid agencies are stepping up their response, but conditions and access within the country remained challenging.