The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 7-month-old Hatem Hayel

The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 7-month-old Hatem Hayel

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Seven-month-old Hatem waits to have the tube from the rehydration kit used to treat him for cholera removed. His little hand cannot take it any more.  But the hospital where he was brought to receive treatment is crowded with new cases of infection arriving by the minute. All the hospital staff are in a rush, trying to serve as many people as possible. They are clearly overwhelmed. Hatem will need to wait a while before he will be assisted.

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.

Hatem's father is disabled and is unable to find work and the family relies on relatives for financial support explains Hatem’s mother. “We and our three children depend on my brother in law and his family to support us. The hospital asked us to pay 2,000 Yemeni rials (approximately $6) for the cholera test. This half the amount Hatem’s uncle earns as a daily wage.”

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.  

In the circumstances they are currently facing, cholera is an additional burden that Hatem’s mother fears they cannot handle.

Seven-month-old baby Hatem waits to have the cannula from the rehydration kit that was used to treat him to be removed.