Dengue fever cases 'surge in Yemen'

Dengue fever cases 'surge in Yemen'
The World Health Organization says there has been a surge in the number of people contracting the mosquito-borne viral infection in Yemen since the start of the war.
3 min read
12 June, 2015
Locals in Aden have struggled to find clean water (Anadolu)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday said that the mosquito-borne viral infection known as Dengue fever is spreading in Yemen. 

Dengue fever is endemic in Yemen and outbreaks follow seasonal patterns with the highest number of cases reported from April to August. The last major outbreak was in 2011 with 1,500 confirmed cases. 

Tarik Jasarevic, spokesperson for WHO, said the organisation “is supporting the Ministry of Health and health authority governorates to do an epidemiological field investigations and entomological survey focusing on dengue mosquito vector and breeding sites in Hodeida, Hadramout and Aden governorates."  

A killer virus

27-year-old Mustafa Adnan had only recently graduated and started working at the government electricity office when the war arrived in Aden.

Locals picked up their weapons and defended Aden from what they saw as an invading force coming down from the north of Yemen, the Houthis and army forces controlled by ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The war started on March 19, and the street battles have left bodies piled up in the streets.

Mustafa died on Wednesday, but it wasn't the fighting that killed him. It was the bodies.

His last hours were spent unconscious, with what his relatives described as blood coming from his mouth. All this started from a mere temperature a couple of days before.

Mustafa died from dengue fever.

Sewage, rotting rubbish, and, even worse, rotting bodies, are fertile breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus.

The virus is not lethal, more often than not, but, in Aden, with few medical supplies getting in, and civilians scared to brave the streets to go to a hospital, the disease is now spreading.

“At the start of the outbreak six or seven people died a day in Crater, now there are at least 10 a day,” said Mirfat Suleiman, a relative of Mustafa's, referring to the area of the city that he caught the virus in.

“It's killing more people than the war itself. There's no government or international agency [to help]. No vaccination or cures. What can we do? Where is the world?” Suleiman added.

This was echoed by Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of Doctors Without Borders' [MSF] operations in Yemen.

“You're going into malaria and dengue fever season with a shortage of drugs and a shortage of medical equipment,” Ingres told NPR.

“None of the state institutions have been paid, and that includes the street cleaners, so you've got piles of rubbish lining the streets, along with sewage as well.”

The situation in Aden is only part of the wider humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

UNICEF announced on Thursday that 80 percent of Yemen's population is in need of aid.

“20.4 million people are now estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, of whom 9.3 million are children,” said Jeremy Hopkins, the organisation's deputy representative, from Sanaa.

“The de facto blockade on Yemen's ports, though there is some easing, means fuel is not coming into the country, and since pumps are mechanised that means over 20 million people who don't have access to safe water,” Hopkins added.