Unicef racing the clock to deliver aid for Yemen cholera

CAIRO: The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) said on Wednesday it had airlifted 36 tonnes of life-saving supplies to war-ravaged Yemen to combat the world’s worst ongoing cholera outbreak.
Almost all of Yemen’s 22 provinces are now afflicted by the disease, which has already killed more than 1,300 people, with children accounting for one-quarter of the deaths, the UN agency added. “We are in a race against time,” Sherin Varkey, the Unicef deputy representative in Yemen, said in a statement.
“Our teams are working with partners not only to provide treatment to the sick and raise awareness among communities, but also to rapidly replenish and distribute supplies and medicines,” he added
The Unicef aid included 750,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts, enough to treat 10,000 out of the 200,000 currently reported suspected cases, the agency said.
The supplies also included water purification tablets and other sanitation items.
“More airlifts of critical supplies will continue in the coming days,” Varkey said.
The epidemic comes at a time when more than half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities are no longer functional because of the ongoing war between the Saudi-backed government and rebels.
Moreover, civil servants — including doctors, nurses, water engineers and rubbish collectors — have not been paid for nearly 10 months.
An acute diarrhoeal infection, cholera is caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera. The disease can kill within hours if left untreated.
Some 7.6 million people live in Yemen’s cholera-threatened areas, according to UN estimates.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Cairo airport has started screening passengers arriving from Sudan for signs of cholera because of a reported outbreak there, the head of airport quarantine said on Wednesday.
Similar measures are already carried out in Cairo airport for people arriving from Yemen due to an epidemic there.
“The number of doctors and health monitors in arrival halls has increased to monitor the flights and examine passengers coming from infected areas,” Head of Airport Quarantine Medhat Qandil said. Qandil said any suspected cholera cases would be isolated and sent to hospital.
Even if passengers do not show symptoms their details will be recorded so they can be monitored by Egyptian health authorities, he said.
Sudan’s government has not officially declared a cholera outbreak, reporting instead on cases of “Acute Watery Diarrhoea”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
On June 1 the United States Embassy in Sudan’s capital Khartoum said there were confirmed reports of cholera in some areas of Sudan, including the greater Khartoum area, that have resulted in fatalities.
Between August 2016 and June 23, 2017 a total of 19,666 suspected cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea were reported in Sudan, including 355 deaths, the WHO said. — Agencies