The first oral cholera vaccination campaign has been launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other global agencies, in Yemen, with plans to reach millions of people in the war-torn country.
There have been over 2,200 deaths due to cholera, which spreads through water, over the past year in Yemen, and another one million suspected cases across the country.
The first phase of the oral campaign targets more than 350,000 people in the southern province of Aden, according to a joint announcement by WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank and the vaccine alliance Gavi.
Lorenzo Pezzoli, a cholera expert with WHO, stated in a video posted on Twitter: “It’s a historical moment, it’s the first time that the country uses this vaccine, to combat the devastating epidemic that started back in 2016.”
Following vaccinations in Aden, he added, “the campaign will move towards all the areas at risk in the country, covering at least four million people.”
Research published this month in The Lancet Global Health journal warned cholera could still infect millions as the rainy season advances.
The symptom of cholera is potentially-deadly diarrhoea, and the illness is contracted by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with a bacterium carried in human faeces and spread through poor sanitation and dirty drinking water.
Cholera can kill within hours if not treated.
The UN has described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the country’s conflict having a devastating impact on the population’s health.
Some 10,000 people have been killed since March 2015 in the war between Saudi-backed pro-government forces and Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.
The conflict has pushed Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, to the brink of famine.