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Number of cholera cases in Yemen reaches 600,000

Mohammed Huwais, AFP | A Yemeni child suspected of being infected with cholera receives treatment at Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa, on June 13, 2017.

The number of people hit by cholera in Yemen since an outbreak began in April has reached 612,703, data from the World Health Organization and Yemen’s health ministry showed on Tuesday.

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The growth of the epidemic has slowed in the past two months, but around 3,000 new daily cases have been reported in recent days and 2,048 people have died.

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

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

Yemen, which lies on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been racked by war since September 2014, when Houthi Shiite rebels swept into the capital, Sanaa, and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The fighting escalated in March 2015 when a coalition led by Saudi Arabia – and backed by the United States – began a campaign against Houthi forces in a bid to restore Hadi's government. Since then, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been dislodged from most of the south, but remain in control of Sanaa and much of the north.

UN officials say the conflict has already killed over 10,000 people and displaced millions more, gutting the country’s health, water and sanitation systems. The Saudi-led coalition, in particular, has been repeatedly criticised for targeting civilians and non-military infrastructure.

The World Health Organisation has said that millions of Yemenis remain cut off from clean water and waste collection has ceased in major cities. The organisation warned in August that more than one million children were at risk.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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