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  • ore than half a million people in Yemen have been infected with cholera since the epidemic began four months ago.

    ore than half a million people in Yemen have been infected with cholera since the epidemic began four months ago. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 September 2017

Millions of people have no access to clean water, while garbage collection has come to a complete halt in major cities.

The number of cholera cases in Yemen has reached 612, 703, with 3,000 reported daily and a total of 2,048 deaths, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization and the Yemeni health ministry.

180 Million People Lack Clean Water Due to Conflict: UNICEF

The epidemic is worsening due to poor sanitation and it is being exacerbated by the ongoing Saudi-led conflict against the Houthi rebels.

Since the war began in 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and over a million families have been displaced.

“Cholera is endemic in Yemen. Two-and-a-half years of intense conflict have exacted a heavy toll on the country's health system and water and sanitation services,”  Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

The disease, spread by ingestion of food or water tainted with human feces, can kill within hours if untreated. It has been largely eradicated in developed countries.

According to the WHO, millions people in Yemen have no access to clean water, while in the larger cities, garbage collection has come to a complete halt.

“There has been a gradual disintegration of the municipal water infrastructure and systems in a context where few civil servants are being paid,” Jasarevic explained. “A relatively small trigger like a period of heavy rain or burst pipes creates a backflow of sewage into water pipes, an overflow of latrines and septic tanks.”

Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, stated, “Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege," adding, "In countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict, and instability, children’s most basic means of survival – water – must be a priority.”

 Yemen Records 500,000 Cholera Cases, Nearly 2,000 Deaths: WHO

"Malnutrition weakens the immune system of these children, while diarrhoeal diseases like cholera exacerbate malnutrition. It's a vicious cycle in a country where 17 million people don't know where their next meal is coming from," Javarseric said.

Yemen’s devastating civil war, pitting a Saudi-led military coalition against the Houthi group, and economic collapse has made it extremely difficult to deal with catastrophes such as cholera and mass hunger.

Wijesekera emphasized, “In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse. When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow.”

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