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Cholera Epidemic in War-torn Yemen: 1,00,000 Suspected Cases, 791 dead

The people of Yemen are threatened by the epidemic of Cholera which has already claimed 791 lives. UNICEF reports there are 1,00,000 cases of Cholera in the country.

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Cholera Epidemic in Yemen
Less than half of the healthcare centres in Yemen are functional. VOA
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  • The unprecedented growth of Cholera Epidemic in Yemen has led to the serious humanitarian crisis in the country
  • The epidemic has already claimed 791 deaths in the country facing a lack of healthcare due to past two years of conflict
  • The WHO has estimated 1,00,000 cases of Cholera present in the country, particularly among children below 15 years of age

June 10, 2017: The Cholera epidemic is rising at unprecedented levels in the war-torn country Yemen. The disease has already claimed 791 lives while WHO reports that there still exist an estimated 1,00,000 cases of cholera.

Cholera is an infection caused by indigestion of food and water due to contamination by Vibrio Cholera bacterium. It can kill the individual in a matter of hours if the fluids inside the body are not replaced.

WHO recently stated that children below 15 years of age account for 46% of cholera cases. Most children of Yemen are also malnourished.

ALSO READ: Donald Trump and Saudi King Agree to Back Safe Zones in Syria and Yemen

The Oxfam charity organization estimates that cholera takes one life every hour in Yemen. 

The WHO report also stated that less than half of the medical centers are functional in Yemen. Most do not have access to clean water and the workers have not been paid since months.

Last month a state of emergency was announced by the Houthis who control most parts of Yemen. In addition to cholera, drought and food insecurity have led to the crisis situation in the country. In such conditions, epidemics have thrived on the population.

The epidemic is easily treatable with proper sanitations and healthcare systems but in Yemen’s case, these systems are on the verge of collapse.

Cholera epidemic in Yemen
The Saudi-led bombings have destroyed the important infrastructure of Yemen. VOA

For the past two years Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have carried out bombing campaigns on the Yemenese soil. Yemen has been bullied to misery. Saudi Arabia has put economic sanctions on Yemen in addition to blocking their air and sea ports which have restrained the import of food and medicines. The bombings have destroyed the important infrastructure of Yemen.

The real reason behind Saudi Arabia’s bombings is Iran. Iran supports the Houthis in Yemen which the Saudis perceive as a threat. The situation is kind of similar to Lebanon where

Cholera epidemic in Yemen
The Houthis are controlling certain parts of Yemen while the central government controls the other half with the support of Saudi Arabia and its allies. VOA

Yemen is facing humanitarian crisis and hopes for outside help in order to save its people. The WHO and UNICEF have initiated joint programmes for providing clean water to contain the epidemic and help Yemen, but stability in the region will only come when great powers decide to confront Saudi attacks.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Will Polio Workers Step Out of Their Comfort Zones to End Virus?

What's more, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers. Thousands of people who cross this very porous border can easily transmit the virus in both countries.

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Polio
Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same. VOA

The move to end Polio started in 1985 with Rotary International. At that time, polio paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children every year. There is still no cure, but two scientists developed vaccines against the virus in the 1950’s.

Dr. Jonas Salk produced one with an inactivated virus that could protect against polio without spreading the disease. Later, Dr. Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine with weakened strains of the virus.

In 1988, public and private groups joined the effort in the Global Polio Eradication Program. Members included governments, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since then, the number of polio cases has dropped by 99.9 percent. Last year, 22 children were crippled by this disease. The wild polio virus exists in only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, but it’s still a global threat.

Dr. John Vertefeuille, from the CDC said, “This last mile is a complicated mile.” It’s not just because of conflict or terrorism. “It’s extreme remoteness. It’s very fragile health systems.” And in these remote conflict prone areas gaining access to children can be a major problem.

If polio exists anywhere, it can once again spread everywhere.

Polio
In many places the vaccinators are women because women can go into the homes, talk to other women and gain access to the children. Wikimedia

Vertefeuille and other experts discussed strategies to realize a polio-free world July 10 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same.

What’s more, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers. Thousands of people who cross this very porous border can easily transmit the virus in both countries.

While the funding and technical support has to come from large, private-public partnerships, immunization teams succeed best if they are local. Approaches have to take culture and customs into consideration.

In many places the vaccinators are women because women can go into the homes, talk to other women and gain access to the children.

Elsewhere, soldiers vaccinate children when they take over an area run by anti-government forces. Vaccination teams have to be prepared to move quickly when there is a lull in the fighting and to deliver multiple doses of vaccine in a short period of time.

Polio
Community volunteers are a great resource. Some get cell phones so they can alert health officials if a child becomes paralyzed. VOA

Surveillance is just as critical. To end polio, you have to know where the outbreaks are. Community volunteers are a great resource. Some get cell phones so they can alert health officials if a child becomes paralyzed.

Another challenge is getting children in migrant groups vaccinated. Vertefeuille says this is where technology helps. The CDC uses satellites to see where people have moved and what areas are abandoned. Clues are where structures have been repaired, where the grass grows on roads, indicating abandoned areas, and where it doesn’t, indicating where people are living.

Dr. Andrew Etsana from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said these groups present a particular challenge because “you have people moving with a virus and it is difficult to track them and vaccinate the vulnerable children in this mobile population.”

Another issue is the nature of viruses themselves. Viruses mutate. So far, the polio vaccines have been effective, but if not enough children get vaccinated, the virus can change, and perhaps make the vaccine less effective. That’s why every child needs to be vaccinated.

Outbreaks that can be avoided by vaccinating the whole population so that there are no gaps for the mutated virus to slip through.

International experts are working with local leaders to close this gap.

Another issue is complacency. Etsana said, “People are getting tired. The program has been going on. They thought it would have ended.”

Rotary has pledged to continue its support, other groups as well. International support and funding is critical to ending polio, but after three decades, many people have never seen polio. Etsana says he sees complacency creeping into all areas of the program. “The funders of the program are also getting tired. The fund is drying up and if the fund dries up and the job is not done, we’re going to have a major problem. We may have reinfection.”

Also Read-After Three Years Struggle, WHO Declares Somalia Polio Free

But, if people recognize the program’s value – it has united communities, established vaccine centers, created partnerships never before imagined – the world can not only end polio, but tackle other diseases as well. The polio program is widely credited with stopping the spread of Ebola in Nigeria while the disease ravaged other west African countries. (VOA)