SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s cholera outbreak is so widespread that just drinking water can lead to death.
Nearly 2,000 people have already succumbed to one of the worst recorded outbreaks of cholera in modern history, with over 400,000 having contracted the disease, according to the World Health Organization.
Cholera, a diarrheal disease spread by ingestion of food or water tainted with human faeces, can kill within hours if untreated. It has been largely eradicated in developed countries equipped with sanitation systems and water treatment.
But Yemen’s devastating civil war, pitting a Saudi-led military coalition against the armed Houthi group, and economic collapse has made it extremely difficult to deal with catastrophes such as cholera and mass hunger.
With stinking green watery filth mingled with trash being a common sight in the capital Sanaa, the government is struggling to control the spread of the disease.
Pumps to sanitize the water supply sit idle for lack of fuel, while maintenance agencies tasked with chlorinating aquifers go without salaries and supplies.
Since Yemen’s government took control of central bank funds, it no longer pays most civil servants in Houthi-held lands. This means that most of those working in and around Sanaa have not been paid for six months, ruining the lives of hospital and sanitation workers.
Meanwhile, the parched and mountainous country is in danger of running out of water, leaving its 28 million mostly impoverished citizens facing another crisis.
A dearth of clean water has forced many residents to queue up and fill jerry cans from water trucks.
The United Nations estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, two million people have fled fighting near their homes and only half of hospitals have staff and supplies to function normally.