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Cholera epidemic in Yemen reaches record highs

3 August 2017

Since the outbreak just three months ago, 360 000 people are now suspected to be infected. This is the highest figure ever recorded in a country in just one year, and higher than what was previously seen as the most extensive spread of cholera, when the disease infected 340 311 people in Haiti in 2011.

One of the world's worst humanitarian disasters

Since the end of April, nearly 2000 people have died as a result of the cholera epidemic in Yemen, and although the spread has shown signs of slowing down, the rainy season from July to September will again increase the risk of spread. In the worst case scenario, the total number of infected people could rise to over 600,000, making this one of the largest cholera outbreaks since records began in 1949.

"It is frankly overwhelming that in just three months Yemen has recorded more cases of cholera than any country has ever recorded in a year. Yemen is already on its knees after two years of war. Many are weakened by conflict and hunger, and for them cholera is devastating," said Nigel Timmins, Oxfam's head of humanitarian operations, who has just returned from Yemen.

The war has had a devastating effect on the people of Yemen, their livelihoods and infrastructure. Over 5000 civilians have been killed in the fighting and parts of the country are on the verge of starvation. Health, water and sanitation systems have been bombed and are on the verge of collapse, leaving over 15 million people without adequate access to clean drinking water and sanitation .

Millions more people are going hungry and need help to access a meal. With sanitation services severely affected by the two-year war, piles of waste are now lying in the streets and in the settlements of displaced people. Aid agencies doing water and sanitation work risk being overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak.

Oxfam is calling for an immediate ceasefire to enable a nationwide cholera campaign to prevent the disease from spreading unchecked. Since July 2015, Oxfam has reached over 1.2 million people in Yemen with water and sanitation facilities, cash grants, and food vouchers.

Brief facts on one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters

  • At least 8,167 people have been killed and over 46,000 injured since March 2015.
  • Around 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict.
  • The cholera epidemic that broke out in April has already led to over 360,000 suspected cases of cholera.
  • 20.7 million people, over 75% of the country's population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • 60% of the population (17 million people) suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • 15.7 million people are in need of water and sanitation assistance.