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UN Wraps Up Second Round of Cholera Vaccinations in Yemen

A nurse checks a boy at a cholera treatment center at the al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 3, 2018.

An estimated 300,000 people, more than half of them children, have been immunized against cholera in war-torn Yemen. The weeklong vaccination campaign was led jointly by the World Health Organization and U.N. Children’s Fund.

More than 3,000 health workers fanned out across Hodeidah and Ibb governorates. Both are areas where Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia-backed government forces are engaged in war.

A spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund, Christophe Boulierac, said the campaign went ahead because the warring parties agreed to stop fighting during so-called Days of Tranquility, a period that lasted six days.

“Before the end of the year, many more people will need to be vaccinated in Yemen against cholera," he said. "And millions more children will need to be immunized against polio, against measles, against pneumonia and other preventable diseases.”

Yemen is facing one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history. Since April 2017, more than 1.2 million suspected cases of cholera, including 2,515 deaths, have been reported. Practically no part of Yemen has been spared.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said a recent increase in cholera cases in 12 governorates prompted two mass vaccination campaigns.

“The most recent data in al-Hodeidah shows that only 50 percent of health facilities are still operational in the governorate," said Lindmeier. "The conflict in Hodeidah has severely impacted this access to water and sanitation, to all preventive and clinical service, to increasing the risk of disease outbreaks among those who remain in the governorate.”

Lindmeier said that poses significant challenges to effectively control outbreaks of cholera as well as for diphtheria, measles and malaria.