Yemen: One million malnourished children caught in cholera ‘hot zones’
More than a million children suffering from acute malnutrition are caught in areas of Yemen hardest hit by a deadly outbreak of cholera, Save the Children is warning.
The charity’s new analysis of district level data reveals more than 1,000,000 acutely malnourished children under the age of 5 – including almost 200,000 with severe acute malnutrition – are living in areas with high levels of infection.
Malnourished children have substantially reduced immune systems and are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera.
Diarrhoeal diseases like cholera are also themselves a leading cause of malnutrition – raising fears that even if children survive the outbreak they could be pushed further towards starvation.
Save the Children is scaling up its response and sending more health experts to the worst hit areas, including Al Hali District in Hodeidah, which has the country’s highest number of suspected cholera cases.
The district also has an estimated 31,000 children in need of treatment for acute malnutrition, or more than a quarter of children under the age of five.
Lamia, a mother-of-six from Al Hali, lost two children to disease. Her 10-month-old baby girl, Arwa, is severely malnourished.
“Arwa is better than before, she used to not be able to move her hands and her legs were skinnier than this,” Lamia told Save the Children at one of the charity's malnutrition treatment centres in Al Hali.
“But she is lucky, two of my children died. One died when he was just two and a half months old, he had very bad diarrhoea.”
More than 425,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported across Yemen, with 1,900 deaths. Children under the age of 15 make up an increasing proportion of both new cases (44%) and fatalities (32%).
Save the Children currently operates 14 cholera treatment centres and more than 90 rehydration units across the country, with 160 tonnes of additional cholera treatment supplies en route to Yemen.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's Country Director for Yemen, said:
“After two years of armed conflict, children are trapped in a brutal cycle of starvation and sickness. And it's simply unacceptable. Our teams are dealing with a horrific scenario of babies and young children who are not only malnourished but also infected with cholera.
“The tragedy is both malnutrition and cholera are easily treatable if you have access to basic healthcare. But hospitals and clinics have been destroyed, government health workers haven't been paid for almost a year, and the delivery of vital aid is being obstructed.
“We and others are saving lives where we can and with what we have – but we urgently need more help. Children must not pay for this conflict with their lives.”
For more information or to arrange interviews with spokespeople in London or Yemen, please email Simona Sikimic - firstname.lastname@example.org or Antonia Roupell A.Roupell@savethechildren.org.uk.
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Notes to editors
- As of July 23, 153 of Yemen’s 333 districts are reporting a high suspected cholera Attack Rate of 1% or more, which means at least 1 in 100 people are contracting cholera.
- In those districts, there are an estimated 1,070,633 children aged 6-59 months with acute malnutrition: 886,839 children require treatment for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and 183,794 require treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), according to Save the Children’s analysis of district level data from the Yemen Nutrition Cluster.
- Between April 27 and Jul 29, the WHO reported 425,192 suspected cholera cases and 1,895 deaths.
- In Hodeidah’s Al Hali District alone there were 15,293 cases of cholera and 23 deaths. An estimated 31,144 children, or 27% of children aged 6-59 months, are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition.
- On 30 July, children under the age of 15 made up 44.4% of suspected cholera cases and 31.9% of deaths since 27 April, according to Save the Children’s tracker of WHO weekly data. On 22 May it was 37.6% and 25.6% respectively.
- Malnourished children are 6.3x (SAM) and 2.9x (MAM) more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases than well-nourished children. See here for more information.