The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 2-year-old Amal

The faces of Yemen’s cholera outbreak: 2-year-old Amal

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Posted
6/27/17

Two-year-old Amal lies on her mother’s lap while waiting to leave the cholera isolation unit at Aljomhuri Hospital in Hajjah City, Yemen. Amal became infected with cholera two days earlier. She started vomiting and having from severe diarrhea. Her mother tried to treat her from home, but she did not get better. Amal was weak, dehydrated, and unable to eat or drink anything.  Finally, her mother made the difficult choice to take her to the hospital.

“I pay 12,000 Yemeni rial (approximately $34) each time I buy water from the water truck that comes around to my village and and I believed that this water is safe for my family,” she says. Amal’s family, like most families in the area, depend on the water they buy from trucks that regularly provide water. The trucks are an alternative to the water supplied by the local authority that comes only once every three months.

Yemen now faces 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.

Only a few families in Hajjah City can afford to pay for the water from the trucks. For Amal’s family, this water is used for cooking and drinking.  There are a limited number of public water sources in the city and most of these are now contaminated with cholera. There have been numerous campaigns to sensitize the truck owners on the cholera outbreak but it’s not enough. Truck’s tanks are often left uncovered and the vendors fail to add chlorine tablets to their tanks before pumping water to houses. This has increased the risk of water contamination.

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.

Two-year-old Amal lies on her mother’s lap while waiting to leave the cholera isolation unit at Aljomhuri Hospital in Hajjah City, Yemen.

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