Yemen: Cholera Outbreak Threatens to Spiral Out of Control

Nuha Haider/MSF


In Yemen, MSF has now treated 12,181 patients for cholera and acute watery diarrhea. On May 29, the total number of cases reached more than 50,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cases have now been reported in 19 of Yemen’s governorates. Poor sanitation, a lack of safe drinking water, and Yemen’s ongoing conflict have exacerbated the outbreak. People suffering from chronic and acute malnutrition are at a particularly high risk, and the population is having more and more difficulty accessing health facilities on time. The outbreak is spreading to the more remote and poor communities where people have farther to travel and less money for transportation.

MSF Response

Since March 30, MSF has treated 12,181 patients in eight cholera treatment centers (CTCs), six cholera treatment units (CTUs), and two stabilization units in seven governorates (Amran, Hajjah, Al-Dhale, Hodaidah, Ibb, Taiz, and Sana’a). MSF also supports Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population (MoPHP) in Aden governorate with donations and cholera response training for staff.

MSF Cholera & Acute Watery Diarrhea Figures

MSF has treated 12,181 patients (cholera & acute watery diarrhea)

3,091 patients in Amran Governorate (between April 25 and May 29)

3,670 patients in Hajjah Governorate (between March 30 and May 29)

2,392 patients in Al-Dhale Governorate (between April 23 and May 30)

1,122 patients in Hodaidah Governorate (between May 19 and May 30)

1,245 patients in Taiz Governorate (between May 7 and May 30)

318 patients in Ibb Governorate (between May 3 and May 30)

343 patients in Sana’a Governorate in one day (between May 23 & 30)

Original Story: Suspected cases of this deadly disease have more than doubled in the past five days

NEW YORK/SANA’A, YEMEN, MAY 20, 2017—As cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhea rise across Yemen, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns that the outbreak is threatening to spiral out of control and calls for an urgent and appropriate response.

The number of suspected cases has more than doubled in the past five days, from 11,000 on May 14 to more than 23,500 on May 19, according to World Health Organization figures. The disease has now spread across 18 of Yemen’s 22 governorates, according to Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population.

“The fast spread of the current outbreak is extremely alarming,” said Ghassan Abou Chaar, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen. “Before the outbreak, the health system was already overstretched and people’s health needs were already huge. To bring the outbreak under control, it won’t be enough simply to treat those people who reach medical facilities. We also need to address the source of the disease, by improving water and sanitation and working in communities to prevent new cases.”

MSF teams have treated 3,092 patients in four cholera treatment centers and nine cholera treatment units in the governorates of Amran, Houdaydah, Hajja, Al Dhale, Taiz, and Ibb. Teams are expecting a delivery of more than 63 tons of supplies to arrive in Yemen in the coming days.

The war in Yemen, which escalated in March 2015, has had a serious impact on the country’s already weak health system. Many health facilities no longer function, and there are shortages of medications, including intravenous fluids and oral rehydration salts, both essential for the treatment of cholera.

Efforts to treat patients are also hampered by staff shortages. Medical staff in Yemen have received no salaries since September 2016, and many have been obliged to find other types of work to support their families. Meanwhile, insecurity hampers the ability of aid to reach some of the affected areas.

MSF calls for imports of medical supplies into Yemen to be facilitated, and for Yemeni medical staff to be paid incentives so that they can carry out their work. MSF also calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure that medical and humanitarian workers are able to reach the affected areas in order to run medical facilities, treat patients and bring the outbreak under control.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries in the world, including Yemen. In Yemen, MSF teams are directly providing healthcare to patients in 13 hospitals and supporting more than 25 hospitals in 11 Yemeni governorates.