Yemen could see as many as 250,000 new cases of cholera within six months, in addition to 50,000 already reported, the World Health Organization said Friday.
“The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented,” Nevio Zagaria, WHO country representative for Yemen, told reporters during a conference call on Friday.
He said the death toll from the outbreak has already reached 240 and more than 50,000 cases have been registered in the past three weeks.
Two years into a war between Houthi rebels and government forces allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, which has killed more than 8,000 people, Yemen has declared a state of emergency Sunday in the capital, Sana’a, over the outbreak.
Fighting has taken a toll on medical facilities in the war-torn country, as more than half of Yemen’s facilities, which are now operated by Houthi rebels, no longer function.
The U.N. says some 17 million of Yemen’s 26 million people lack sufficient food and at least three million malnourished children are in “grave peril.”
Yemen, which is the Arab world’s poorest nation, is now classified by the World Health Organization as a level three emergency, alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq. This is the country’s second cholera outbreak in less than a year.
Cholera is highly contagious and can be contracted from ingesting contaminated food and water.