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Yemen now has biggest cholera crisis in the world, says UN

The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has exceeded 200,000, making it the worst cholera outbreak in the world, according to the United Nations.

More than 1,300 people have now died from the outbreak, one quarter of them children, Unicef executive director Anthony Lake and World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan said in a joint statement on Saturday. Suspected cases are increasing at an average of 5,000 a day.

“In just two months, cholera has spread to almost every governorate of this war-torn country,” Mr Lake and Ms Chan said. “Collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread.”

“Rising rates of malnutrition have weakened children’s health and made them more vulnerable to disease.”

The statement came a day after the UN said the cholera outbreak would probably have infected more than 300,000 people by September.

Mr Lake and Ms Chan said Unicef and WHO were doing everything possible to increase prevention and treatment methods, but called on the authorities in Yemen to do more.

“An estimated 30,000 dedicated local health workers who play the largest role in ending this outbreak have not been paid their salaries for nearly 10 months,” they said.

“We urge all authorities inside the country to pay these salaries and, above all, we call on all parties to end this devastating conflict.”

Forces loyal to Yemeni president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi – backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition – have been fighting Iran-supported Houthi rebels for more than two years.

On Friday last week, Saudi Arabia announced it was contributing US$66.7 million (Dh245m) towards the anti-cholera programme in Yemen run by Unicef and WHO.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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