Months after being ravaged by a deadly cholera outbreak that killed thousands of people, Yemen is now faced with the risk of a second wave of the disease as a new rainy season approaches.
The war-torn country, which has lost much of its infrastructure due to ruthless airstrikes by Saudi Arabia over the past three years, is still reeling from one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the killer disease, scientists warned on Thursday.
Since 2016, roughly a year after the attack began, one million suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen while more than 2,000 people have been killed by it.
“We expect to see a surge of cases during the rainy season,” Anton Camacho, lead author of a study on the epidemic published in The Lancet Global Health journal, told Reuters.
“If something is going to happen it will happen now so everyone should be aware and respond quickly. The risk is high,” he added.
The rainy season is expected to begin from mid-April and last until the end of August.
The first four weeks of last year’s rainy season saw the daily number of cholera cases increase 100-fold, accelerating the spread of the disease across the poverty-stricken country.
Contamination of water resources during the season and changing levels of zooplankton and iron in water, which help cholera bacteria survive, were some of the main reasons behind the cholera epidemic.
According to the researchers, more than half of Yemen’s districts – home to nearly 14 million – are at risk this year.
Cholera is spread by consuming contaminated food or water. The diarrheal disease can kill within hours if the person is left unattended.
The outbreak has been exacerbated by the Saudi-led war, which has destroyed Yemen’s health services and water supplies, displaced over two million people and driven the country to the brink of famine. Saudi Arabia’s years-long siege on the country’s main air and seaports has also led to a severe shortage of medicines.
The research has mapped the outbreak and analyzed rainfall patterns, allowing health officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) to more easily identify the places that need cholera vaccinations the most.
According to the United Nations, some 22 million of Yemen’s 25 million population need humanitarian assistance.