SANA'A, YEMEN/NEW YORK, MAY 9, 2017—A growing cholera outbreak in Yemen is threatening to spread further in the war-torn country, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, reporting a drastic increase in the number of patients its teams are treating in recent weeks.
In response to the outbreak, MSF set up cholera treatment centers in five hospitals and is supporting other structures run by health authorities. MSF teams have received or treated more than 780 patients since March 30 in the governorates of Amran, Hajjah, Al-Dhale', Taiz, and Ibb, with a sharp increase in the past two weeks.
In addition, the Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population has reported about 310 cases in Sana'a.
With the Yemeni health system severely weakened by war, MSF fears that health authorities alone will not be able to deal with the outbreak.
"We have patients coming from many different districts, tens of kilometers away," said Shinjiro Murata, MSF head of mission in Yemen. "We are very concerned that the disease will continue to spread and become out of control. A smooth collaboration between health actors and relevant authorities is needed to provide prompt support to health facilities and local communities in the affected areas. Humanitarian assistance also needs to be urgently scaled up to limit the spread of the outbreak and anticipate other potential outbreaks."
Since the end of April, MSF teams have treated 276 patients with cholera and acute watery diarrhea at Al-Nasr Hospital and Al Salam Primary Health Care Center, in Al-Dhale' governorate. Since March 30, MSF has treated 263 patients in the Abs Hospital, Hajjah governorate, 168 of whom were received in the last two weeks. Al-Salam Hospital in the Amran governorate, Thi As Sufal General Rural Hospital in Ibb governorate and Mother and Child hospital in Al-Houban, Taiz governorate, also collectively received hundreds of patients in recent weeks.
Since the beginning of the current war in March 2015, many hospitals have stopped working due to the conflict, and it has become very difficult for millions of people in Yemen to access health care. Since September 2016, a lack of operating funds and salaries for staff has also caused a number of health facilities to stop functioning.
MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries. In Yemen, MSF teams directly provide health care to patients in 13 hospitals and support more than 25 hospitals in 11 governorates.