Yemen cholera and diphtheria: ‘The ongoing war and blockade are sending Yemen’s health system decades back in time’

While the cholera outbreak appears to be slowing in war-torn Yemen, with the number of cases closing in on 1 million since April, diphtheria has raised it’s ugly head in the country for the first time in a quarter century and even longer since the last outbreak.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as of Dec. 4, 318 suspected cases of diphtheria and 28 deaths had been reported in 15 of Yemen’s 20 governorates. Half the suspected cases are children between the ages of five and 14, and nearly 95 per cent of deaths are children under 15. Nearly 70 per cent of all suspected cases are in Ibb governorate.

MSF’s emergency coordinator in Ibb, Marc Poncin said, “Globally, diphtheria has been eradicated from most countries after systematic childhood vaccination campaigns, and it’s become something of a neglected and forgotten disease. Even in Yemen, the last diphtheria case was recorded in 1992, and the last outbreak in 1982. The ongoing war and blockade are sending Yemen’s health system decades back in time.”

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