The catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen caused by the indiscriminate bombing by Saudi Arabian forces using weapons supplied by its Western masters has just worsened: the cholera epidemic has surpassed one hundred thousand cases, affecting mostly children and the elderly.
As of June 7 2017, there have been 101.820 suspected cases of cholera, occasioning 791 deaths, the most vulnerable being children under fifteen years of age (46 per cent of cases) and the over-60s (33%).
The head of the World Health Organization's office in Yemen, Dr. Nevio Zagaria, is focusing on the so-called cholera hotspots, namely the areas with the highest number of cases. In declarations to the website WHO, he stated "These cholera 'hot spots' are the source of much of the country's cholera transmission. Stamp out cholera in these places and we can slow the spread of the disease and save lives. At the same time, we're continuing to support early and proper treatment for the sick and conducting prevention activities across the country."
The war in Yemen has had a catastrophic effect on the population, with the virtual collapse of the healthcare system. 14.5 million people no longer have regular access to basic sanitation or clean water sources, health and sanitation workers have been unpaid for eight months and medical supplies are not entering the country at a rate which meets needs.
Dr. Meritxell Relano, the Representative of UNICEF in Yemen, says that "The cholera outbreak is making a bad situation for children drastically worse. Many of the children who have died from the disease were also acutely malnourished."
The WHO and UNICEF need more funding to complete their task of bringing clean and sterilized water to thepopulation, restoring water treatment plants and water supply sources, providing support for medical centers, setting up Oral Rehydration Centers and Diarrheal Treatment Centers and to launch public awareness programs. Their efforts are hampered by poor access to areas dur to the conflict.
The symptoms of cholera appear between 12 hours and 5 days after drinking infected water. The majority of people infected with Vibrio cholerae do not develop any symptoms at all although they can pass the infection on to others. Those who do develop symptoms develop severe watery diarrhea and death can follow within hours if the disease is not treated.
Treatment is simple and effective and cholera is easily treatable. Most people react to an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), which comes in the form of a sachet dissolved in one liter of water. Patients can need up to six liters of the solution in the first day. If the patients are severely dehydrated and in shock, they may need intravenous fluids (7 liters of intravenous plus ORS for a 70 kilogram adult).
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969