Lack of clean water fuels Yemen’s cholera outbreak

Lack of clean water fuels Yemen’s cholera outbreak

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For the second time in a month, 9-year-old Jehad is in the cholera isolation center at Yemen’s Aljomhuri Hospital. “Every day many people in my village get sick. One month ago, I got sick with vomiting and diarrhea, and I got better after coming to this hospital.  However here I am again, facing the same symptoms,” Jehad says.   

Close to 15 million people in Yemen lack access to safe water and sanitation. This, coupled with a failing health system, is making prevention and treatment of cholera one of the biggest challenges facing Yemenis today. Within the last 10 weeks, the country has reported more than 200,000 suspected cases. Without access to clean water and better hygiene it is estimated that 7.8 million Yemenis are at risk of contracting cholera.

Jehad gathers water for her family’s daily use from a valley where rain water collects in small ponds. She and her friends also use the pond water to wash clothes and other household items. At the end of the day, they carry the water in jerry cans to their houses for drinking and cooking. With close to 70 percent of Yemen’s population living in rural areas, many families rely on open water sources and dilapidated wells to access water. 

The situation in urban areas is no different.  Two-year-old Amal is also at the hospital being treated for cholera. Her family, like most others in Yemen’s Hajja city, depends on water they buy from trucks that regularly supply water to homes. The trucks are an alternative to the water supplied by the local authority that only comes once in three months.

“The pipes in my home are completely dry and I pay 12,000 Yemeni rial ($34) each time I buy water from the water truck. I believe that this water is safe for my family,” Amal’s mother says.  This is almost double the cost of water trucks in Yemen’s capital, `Sanaa. 

Few families in Hajja city can afford to pay for the water from the trucks and for Amal’s family, this water is saved for cooking and drinking. There are a limited number of public water sources in the city and most are believed to be contaminated. Hajja governorate has had some of the highest number of suspected cases in Yemen with close to 20,000 reported so far.

CARE is responding to the cholera outbreak in Yemen through a combination of direct assistance and efforts aimed at preventing further spread of the disease. The response is being conducted in 25 districts across eight governorates of Yemen. This includes providing safe water to public facilities like hospitals and schools, treatment of water sources and household water points, and the distribution of hygiene and cholera kits to prevent infections.  CARE is also working with local communities to conduct hygiene awareness and clean up campaigns as well as support solid waste disposal in public spaces including markets.

CARE’s cholera response to cholera in Amran, Yemen.