The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. In severe cases, the disease can kill within hours if left untreated. Malnourished children are at increased risk of dying from infectious diseases. In Yemen, some 1.8 million children are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 under the age of five with severe acute malnutrition.
However, WHO officials have warned that there could be a new wave of cases at the beginning of the rainy season in March if the Saudi-led coalition does not ease its blockade of Yemen and allow in more food, fuel and medicines.
At least 2,226 people are believed to have died of the disease since April. More than 80% of Yemenis lack food, fuel, water and access to healthcare. Yemen's health service has been unable to cope with the cholera outbreak, with more than half of all medical facilities closed due to damage sustained during the conflict. Hospitals have also faced crippling shortages of medicines, fuel and equipment because of the coalition blockade. Damage to infrastructure and a lack of fuel for pumping stations has also left 16 million people cut off from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the likelihood of cholera spreading.
The outbreak in Yemen peaked at the end of June, when more than 50,000 suspected cases were reported in one week across 22 out of 23 provinces. Since then, it has steadily declined.
The latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday show that 7,622 suspected cases and one associated death were reported last week.