Yemen’s Cholera Crisis: Fighting Disease During Armed Conflict

Yemen currently faces the “world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” according to a joint statement issued by UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2017. The WHO reports that over 400,000 suspected cholera cases and at least 1,900 associated deaths have occurred in the last three months alone, with 41% of cases being children under 15 years of age. Although cholera is not new to Yemen, a host of factors have fueled this outbreak, among them: the ongoing armed conflict; the disintegration of healthcare systems in the country, hastened by numerous direct attacks on hospitals; severe food insecurity and malnutrition; and already weak infrastructure, poor governance, poverty, and corruption. Whereas cholera is preventable and treatable under normal circumstances, the near collapse of Yemen’s health, water, and sanitation sectors amidst the ongoing armed conflict have fueled the disease’s spread across the country.

The cholera epidemic also has significant protection consequences. In addition to emergency response and prevention activities, humanitarians and medical professionals are seeking to plan proactively to avoid family separation due to medical treatment and death of family members; mitigate the psychosocial effects of the conflict; and address the potential economic implications—such as exploitation, abuse, and child labor—of severe food insecurity, conflict, and cholera.

In light of this multidimensional humanitarian crisis, this podcast will bring together medical experts and humanitarian practitioners to discuss the epidemiological implications and medical treatment of Yemen’s cholera epidemic amidst an active armed conflict, as well as the ongoing challenges of maintaining humanitarian assistance and protection operations to mitigate the devastating impact of this crisis on vulnerable populations.

 

In particular, this podcast will focus on the following questions:

  • How has the intersection of cholera with other crises, namely armed conflict and famine, affected the outbreak, spread, and treatability of cholera in Yemen?  
  • What are the challenges and dilemmas facing the humanitarian and medical sectors as they respond to Yemen’s cholera crisis?  In particular, how does the collapse of crucial infrastructure influence the medical and humanitarian response to the current crisis?  
  • How can the humanitarian sector anticipate and respond to the vast array of consequences (including the separation of family members and psychosocial effects) of this crisis?
  • What role has the international community played in responding to the situation? What additional steps could prevent further fatalities?

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