The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 22-year-old Layla

The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 22-year-old Layla

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Layla, a 22-year-old mother of three, lies in the cholera isolation unit at the Aljomhuri Hospital in Hajja, Yemen. She came to the hospital as soon as she started experiencing cholera symptoms. “I listen to the radio and every day they talk about cholera and its symptoms. When I started feeling sick, I knew it was a cholera infection.”

Yemen is facing an acute and fast-spreading cholera outbreak that is compounding the country’s already dire humanitarian crisis. The country’s lack of a functioning health system and Yemenis’ limited access to safe water and hygiene have fueled the disease’s spread. Hajja governorate has had some of Yemen’s highest infection numbers, with 17,431 out of the more than 200,000 reported cases.

Layla says that even with the knowledge she and her family had on cholera and prevention, it was difficult to protect themselves. Her husband used to work as a public servant, but for the last eight months has not received any salary. This has made life for their family difficult. They can barely afford to feed themselves. The little, unreliable income her husband gets from daily work cannot be stretched to cover any more costs.

18.8 million people in Yemen require humanitarian assistance, 14.5 million lack access to safe water and sanitation services, 17 million people are food insecure, and around 2 million are displaced. More than half of all health facilities in Yemen are closed or partially functioning as a result of the conflict. Public service delivery institutions face huge challenges to resume salaries for public sector employees, most of whom have not received payment for more than eight months.  

Layla is feeling better now, but she remains concerned about how she will provide for her family.  "We can barely feed our children. When I think about cleaning substances or water purification, I see these as luxury."

Layla is a 22-year-old mother of three who has spent one day in the cholera isolation unit at the Aljomhuri Hospital in Hajja.