In Yemen, a cholera outbreak is making a bleak situation worse

A Yemeni baby suspected of having cholera.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most of Yemen's infrastructure has been destroyed and there are shortages of everything from food to medicine, and as fighting rages on, it's unlikely that things will improve anytime soon.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Middle Eastern country is the worst in the world, and 10 million people need immediate assistance. The fighting began in 2014, when Houthi rebels faced off against the government; in 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began fighting the rebels in order to restore the government, and today, the Houthis control the west and the government and its backers control the south and east. Over the past two-and-a-half years, constant airstrikes have killed civilians and destroyed bridges and hospitals, and because the Saudi coalition has shut down the capital's international airport to civilian planes, supplies cannot fly in and sick and injured Yemenis cannot leave for treatment in other countries.

The New York Times has an in-depth look at one of the biggest problems facing Yemen: cholera, the bacterial infection that is spread by feces-contaminated water. It is not life-threatening in developed countries, and can be treated with antibiotics, but in Yemen, it's hitting children and the elderly hard. As garbage piles up in the streets and sewage systems fail, Yemenis have to get their water from wells that can easily be contaminated. In just three months, cholera has killed nearly 2,000 Yemenis, the Times reports, and more than 500,000 people are infected.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Half of all Yemenis do not have quick access to an operating medical center, and many have to borrow money to get treatment; a Yemeni soldier who told the Times he has not been paid in eight months brought his 6-year-old daughter to the capital, Sana'a, for cholera treatment. She is malnourished, after surviving off of yogurt and milk from neighbors, and her father said they are "just waiting for doom or for a breakthrough from heaven." As humanitarian workers watch the situation deteriorate, they are cognizant of the fact that if they had additional funds, they could make more of a difference — the United Nations estimates Yemen needs $2.3 billion in humanitarian aid this year, but only 41 percent has been received. Read the entire report at The New York Times.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.