WHO likely to cancel Yemen cholera vaccine shipment

The photo taken on June 13, 2017 shows a Yemeni infant suspected of being infected with cholera receiving treatment at a hospital in the capital Sana’a. (AFP photo)
The photo taken on June 13, 2017 shows a Yemeni infant suspected of being infected with cholera receiving treatment at a hospital in the capital Sana’a. (AFP photo)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that a pre-planned shipment of cholera vaccines to Yemen is likely to be cancelled over security concerns, issues with access and lack of proper logistical support.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on Tuesday that vaccines bound to reach Yemen to help the war-torn country cope with a ballooning caseload of cholera could be re-routed to places that “might need them more urgently.” The official added that the shipment “has to make sense” at this current period of time.

Lindmeier said 500,000 cholera vaccine doses are currently waiting in Djibouti for possible delivery to Yemen, adding that officials from Yemen’s ousted government should determine where the vaccines should reach. The WHO agreed last month to send one million doses of vaccine to Yemen.

The country has been devastated by more than two years of Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign. Thousands of people have been killed in airstrikes that have mostly targeted key civilian infrastructure, including health facilities. Millions are now on the verge of famine while many have no access to safe drinking water.

A Yemeni boy fills jerrycans with safe drinking water from a donated water tank in the capital Sana’a on July 2, 2017. (AFP photo)

The WHO announcement comes as an updated United Nations estimate about the spread of cholera in Yemen suggests that 313,538 in the country have contracted the disease. The UN aid coordination agency has said that 1,732 people have died from cholera and that all 21 governorates in the country have now been affected.

The UN Security Council on Thursday will hear a video-conference report by the WHO’s new director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the situation of cholera in Yemen.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday that the shipment of vaccines to Yemen, as agreed last month, would now have almost no preventive impact on the spread of the disease as there are many areas in the country where the trend line is moving up due to difficulties in access.

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