The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has hit 1 million, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday, as war has left more than 80 percent of the population short of food, fuel, clean water and access to healthcare.
Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, is in a proxy war between the Houthi armed movement, allied with Iran, and a U.S.-backed military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations says it is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The World Health Organization has recorded 2,219 deaths since the cholera epidemic began in April, with children accounting for nearly a third of infections.
Cholera, spread by food or water contaminated with human faeces, causes acute diarrhoea and dehydration and can kill within hours if untreated. Yemen’s health system has virtually collapsed, with most health workers unpaid for months.
On Dec 3, the WHO said another wave of cholera could strike within months after the Saudi-led coalition closed air, land and sea access, cutting off fuel for hospitals and water pumps and aid supplies for starving children.
The ports were closed in retaliation for a missile fired from Yemen by the Houthis. On Wednesday, despite a fresh missile attack on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia said it would allow the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, vital for aid, to stay open for a month.