Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

2017-11-22 23:19
Children being treated in a hospital in Sana'a. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

Children being treated in a hospital in Sana'a. (Hani Mohammed, AP)

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Hodeida - Three people have died of suspected diphtheria in conflict-hit Yemen, doctors said on Wednesday, as the World Health Organisation and International Committee of the Red Cross warned the disease was spreading.

"Currently, there is an increase in diphtheria cases, due to the poor vaccination coverage for children under the age of five, said an ICRC spokesperson.

The WHO also confirmed diphtheria cases had appeared in Yemen, where war and port and airport blockades had left hospitals struggling to secure basic medical supplies, including vaccines.

Diphtheria, a bacterial infection that is preventable by vaccine, attacks the nose and throat and - if left untreated - the heart and nervous system.

Medicine imports

While it is treatable, the infection can be deadly, particularly for children. The US-based Mayo Clinic estimates up to 3% of those who contract diphtheria will die.

More than 2 000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8 600 who have died in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and rebels since 2015.

The blockade on Yemen's ports and airports, put in place after the Iranian-backed Huthi rebels fired a missile into Saudi territory, has tightened the stranglehold around Hodeida, a key conduit for much-needed food and medicine imports to Yemen.

The United Nations has warned that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for decades".

Read more on:    icrc  |  who  |  yemen

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