Ragdad, a young girl with cholera in Yemen, likes on a bed with her eyes half closed and an IV line draped across her body

Ragdad, a young cholera patient in Yemen © ICRC

“She is unable to eat. She vomits everything and diarrhoea is constant,” said Ahmad.

He is worried about his two-year-old daughter Ragdad.

Like over 124,000 others in Yemen, Ragdad has cholera. More than 900 people have already died from the disease.

Over 5,100 suspected cases have been reported in the past few days alone. And at least half of them are severe.

Cholera in Yemen has become an unprecedented public health crisis.

Children are often the most vulnerable

Without treatment, this disease spread by dirty water and contaminated food can kill youngsters within hours.

Ragdad is being treated at Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, where a state of emergency has been declared because of the cholera outbreak.

There are so many patients there that people are sharing beds.

“There are up to four cholera patients in one single bed,” said Dominik Stillhart, head of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“There are people in the garden and some even in their cars with the IV drip hanging from the window.”

Ragdad’s bed is on a porch outside the hospital.

“It rained on us here outside yesterday,” Ahmad said. “And it was very cold at night.”

Conflict in Yemen at the root of the cholera outbreak
In a cholera ward in Yemen, men wearing surgical masks sit and lie in hospital beds while other men stand around them

A cholera ward in Yemen © ICRC

Yemen has been in the grip of violent conflict for over two years, with health, water and other systems nearly destroyed in some places.

The outcome for Yemen’s people has been devastating.

Half of the country’s population – around 14 million people – now need safe water and sanitation services. This is approximately twice the number of people who live in London.

Less than half of Yemen’s health facilities are fully functioning.

More than 17 million people do not have enough food.

Of these, seven million are under threat of famine, meaning that they could die of hunger or illness caused by lack of food.

“I could see myself, how difficult the situation has become to provide services in a country that is suffering from conflict and lack of income,” Dominik said.

“There are an increasing number of patients, including many cholera patients that we have seen in the ward. It is completely full.”

“In other countries, cholera can be quickly and easily treated,” said Luis Sfeir-Younis, British Red Cross Yemen country manager.

“But under these conditions, it can spread rapidly and take a terrible toll.”

Mohammed, a boy with cholera in Yemen, likes in a hospital bed with an IV drip going into his hand as his parents look on

Abdullah Mohammad, who has cholera,, and his parents © ICRC

Aged 14, Abdullah Mohammad is especially vulnerable.

Born with a brain disease, he cannot talk or move.

He now has cholera and his mother, Um Abdullah, is becoming desperate.

“When he first got sick, he had diarrhoea and vomiting” she explained.

“We took him to a clinic, but they referred us here to the Sabeen Hospital for cholera cases.

“We came here yesterday and they gave him rehydration salts, but he isn’t getting any better.”

Red Cross supplies save lives

Our partner the ICRC has supplied vital cholera treatments to Al Sabeen hospital and others across Yemen.

This includes more than 80,000 units of IV fluid and 100,000 oral rehydration sachets.

Both are essential in keeping people from getting dehydrated by cholera’s main symptoms: vomiting and diarrhoea.

“The oral rehydration salts just need to be mixed with water,” Luis said.

“This makes them easy for children to sip.

“ICRC also gave more than 200,000 chlorine tablets to 12 cholera health facilities, which have been struggling without enough supplies for two years.

Other supplies reaching Yemen now include antibiotics for pregnant women and children, and chlorine to purify water both in cities and village wells.

But heavy rains are making the situation worse and cholera continues to spread.

One in 250 people is thought to have cholera in Yemen now.

Will you help us to do more in Yemen today?