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Oral Cholera Vaccination Campaign in Yemen Falls Short

A girl sleeps on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, Aug. 4, 2018.

More than one-quarter million people in Yemen have been immunized against cholera. But, the three-day oral cholera vaccination campaign, held by the World Health Organization and U.N. children's fund between August 4 and 6, has fallen short of its mark by half.

The World Health Organization reports more than 3,000 local health workers have reached 266,000 people above the age of one with oral cholera vaccine. This is about half of the one-half million people WHO and partners had hoped to immunize against this deadly disease.

The three-day campaign took place in two districts of Yemen's Hudeidah city and one district in Ibb Governorate. WHO Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said these three districts were chosen because they were assessed to be the most vulnerable to an escalation of cholera.

He said health agencies are trying to prevent a recurrence of last year's historic cholera epidemic.

"Yemen was facing the worst cholera outbreak with more than 1.1 million cases and more than 2,000 deaths.We want to preempt any possibility of new wave of cholera," he said.

The World Health Organization warns Yemen may be on the brink of another cholera epidemic, which could be even worse than last year's. This is because widespread malnutrition in this war-torn country has lessened peoples' ability to fight off disease.

Since the beginning of July, the WHO reports a significant increase of 115 lab-confirmed cases of cholera. Though the vaccination campaign has officially ended, Jasarevic told VOA health workers are continuing to canvas the three districts to dispense the life-saving oral vaccine to the population.

Oral cholera vaccination normally involves two doses. Jasarevic says the second dose will be administered in the three target areas in about six weeks.