After cholera and dengue, swine flu threatens Yemen
At least 270 people have died from the H1N1 virus in the past three months. In 2019 almost 6,600 people were infected; 1,600 in the past two months. War and health crises hinder the fight against the spread of the disease. Fear over Dengue remains after it kills 78 youth under 16.
Sana'a (AsiaNews) – The Health Ministry of the Houthi-aligned National Salvation Government based in Sana’a has announced that at least 270 people have died in the past three months as a result of the swine flu. This follows recent cholera and Dengue outbreaks.
The Health Ministry is reportedly introducing measures to counter the spread of the H1N1 virus across several governates, prompting a state of emergency being declared.
“The number of people infected with swine flu reached 6,600 cases during 2019, including 1,600 cases during the past two months, while the number of deaths reached 43,” said Yusef Al-Hadhri, the Ministry’s spokesman.
“A bout of fast-spreading swine flu has killed 94 people in October alone, while thousands of reported cases have overwhelmed health care facilities, already crippled by constant violence,” said Mohammed Al-Mansour, a senior health official.
The drop in temperatures during the winter season is a reason for the spread of the flu epidemic, but so is the economic situation linked to the ongoing war, Al-Hadhri said.
Ahmed Hassan El-Qa’eesh, head of epidemiological surveillance in Muhweet governorate, blamed the Health Ministry for not taking the issue more seriously. He noted the lack “official records as most hospitals reject infected personnel, while dealing with most of them indifferently.”
Already ranked the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen plunged into a bloody conflict after Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized the capital Sana'a in 2014.
Fighting between the pro-Saudi government and rebels got worse in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia intervened at the helm of an Arab coalition. More than 90,000 people have died so far, including thousands of civilians.
What started as a result of local divisions gave way to a proxy war that displaced millions of people, triggering what the United Nations has called “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, with some 24 million Yemenis (80 per cent of the population) in need of humanitarian assistance.
Children are particularly affected. Some 2,500 boys have been recruited as soldiers whilst about half of all girls are married before they reach the age of 15.
Early on, international experts had raised the alarm about a possible dengue outbreak. In all, some 52,000 people have contracted the disease, with at least 78 minors under the age of 16 dying from it. The country’s hospitals and clinics are unable to cope with the crisis.
Finding clean water has become increasingly difficult due to the war and recent rains. Far too many people have to use open water tanks to collect the water, exposing them to dengue and other contagious diseases.