Yemen: Preventing cholera to save lives

Twenty-eight year-old Khadija Mohammed lives with her husband and four children in Al Mahabishah village of Hajjah Governorate in Yemen. Her father used to live with them, but he passed away after being sick with diarrhea and fever for three days. They could not afford to take him to the hospital for treatment and he died at home.

Soon after, Khadija’s four year-old son, Amar, fell sick with symptoms similar to her father’s including severe diarrhea, fever and weakness. She and her husband tried to treat him at home, but he did not get better. Khadija heard from neighbours that the hospital in Al Mahabsha was providing treatment to people suffering from symptoms like Amar’s.

“We had to walk for over two hours to get to the hospital. My husband had to borrow money from friends to cover the fees for the medical examination,” says Khadija.

Amar was diagnosed with cholera, received treatment and soon recovered from the disease.

After Khadija went back home, she joined her neighbours in learning more about cholera and the ways to prevent it. Through regular sessions run by CARE staff in her village, people were taught ways to prevent getting infected, the symptoms to look out for if they suspect that someone has cholera and where to go for support. Thanks to CARE, Khadija’s family also received soap for hand washing.

CARE international is working in Al Mahabishah to raise awareness among communities on the existence of cholera and ways to prevent it. This includes mass hand washing campaigns, personal hygiene lessons as well as public advertisements to raise awareness on cholera prevention. A cleaning campaign has also been undertaken to rid the area of solid waste that was increasing the spread of cholera. Moreover, CARE is providing clean water to the people in Al Mahabishah which is used for cooking and cleaning, further reducing the spread of cholera.

Since the start of the outbreak in October 2016, a cumulative total of 23,506 suspected cases of cholera, including 108 associated deaths, have been reported across the country. The conflict and its economic consequences have left the Yemeni health system reliant on international assistance to control any epidemic outbreak, including disease surveillance and control. Only 45 per cent of health facilities are currently functioning, and they are facing severe shortages in medicines, equipment and staff. The lack of capacity, coupled with population displacement, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation have contributed to the occurrence and spread of the cholera outbreak.

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