The life and death struggle against cholera in Yemen
Cholera continues to spread in Yemen, causing more than 390 000 suspected cases of the disease and more than 1800 deaths since 27 April.
WHO and its partners are responding to the cholera outbreak in Yemen, working closely with UNICEF, local health authorities and others to treat the sick and stop the spread of the disease.
Each of these cholera cases is a person with a family, a story, hopes and dreams. In the centres, where patients are treated, local health workers work long hours, often without pay, to fight off death and help their patients make a full recovery.
Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at the crowded 22 May Hospital in Sana’a.
“We have no money even for transportation to the hospital. My husband works as a street cleaner but he hasn’t received a salary for 8 months and he is our only breadwinner,” Fatima said. “I’m afraid that the disease will transmit to other family members.”
Dr Adel Al-Almani is the head of the diarrhoea treatment centre in Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana'a. He and his team often work 18 hours a day to deal with the influx of patients.
More than 30 000 Yemeni health workers have not been paid in more than 10 months. Yet many, like Dr Al-Almani, continue to treat patients and save lives.
Eight-year-old Mohannad has overcome cholera following 3 days of treatment in the diarrhoea treatment centre at Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana'a. Mohannad lost his mother and sister when a bomb went off near their home in Hajjah. He and his father have since fled to Sana’a.
“Mohannad is all I have in this life after my wife and daughter died. When he was infected with cholera I was very anxious that he would have the same fate of his mother and sister,” said Mohannad’s father.
A health worker tends to Khadeeja Abdul-Kareem, 20. Khadeeja was forced to flee the conflict in Al-Waziya District, Taiz. Displaced from her home, she struggles to make ends meet – a situation compounded by her illness.
It was a long and painful journey in search of treatment for Abdu Al-Nehmi, 53. The road from his village in Bani Matar District to Sana’a City was bumpy and the car broke down along the way. The whole time he was suffering from kidney pain in addition to severe diarrhoea and vomiting.
“There is no health centre in our area. We have to spend 2-3 hours to arrive at a proper health facility in Sana’a,” he said.
To date, WHO, UNICEF, and partners have supported the establishment of 3000 beds in 187 diarrhoea treatment centres and 834 fully operational oral rehydration therapy corners.
Nabila, Fatima, Amal, Hayat and Hend are working as nurses in Azal Health Centre in Sana’a and have dedicated themselves to treating patients arriving with severe dehydration.
“Every day, we receive severe cases that come with complicated conditions, but we manage to save the lives of most of them. Sometimes, a new severe case arrives while we’re so busy treating another case,” said Nabila Al-Olofi, one of nurses working in the centre.
“Yes, we have no regular salaries as nurses, but saving lives is our biggest gain.”
WHO, together with UNICEF, is also delivering medical supplies and paying incentives, travel costs and overtime payments for health workers to enable them to continue to treat patients.
WHO’s response to the second wave of the cholera outbreak is possible thanks to support from China, the King Salman Relief Center, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, the World Bank and the Yemen Humanitarian Pooled Fund.