Unprecedented response by 'unsung local heroes' bringing cholera crisis in Yemen under control: Unicef

A volunteer carries hygiene kits provided by UNICEF, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen on May 24, 2017.
A volunteer carries hygiene kits provided by UNICEF, amid a cholera outbreak, in Sanaa, Yemen on May 24, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (AFP) - The cholera epidemic that has ravaged war-torn Yemen has been declining for the past two months because of an unprecedented response by "unsung local heroes", the United Nations said on Tuesday (Aug 29).

A Unicef statement said that because of the efforts of thousands of local volunteers backed up by UN agencies, the weekly number of suspected new cases of cholera had fallen by a third since the end of June.

The United Nations has called Yemen the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world".

The collapse of Yemen's infrastructure after more than two years of war between the Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Shi'ite rebels who control the capital Sanaa has allowed the country's cholera epidemic to swell to the largest in the world.

On Aug 14, the World Health Organisation said that cholera is believed to have affected more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 in Yemen since late April.

According to Unicef, more than half of the suspected cases were children.

"Amid the suffering, ordinary Yemenis are leading a heroic daily fight against acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, which is now paying off," the Unicef statement said.

"Massive collective efforts to treat the sick and improve water and sanitation systems have helped slow the spread of the disease," it said.

An estimated 8,400 people have been killed and 48,000 wounded since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemen conflict to support the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.