"Malnourished and weak children are far more susceptible to the disease and much more likely to die from it"
By Heba Kanso
BEIRUT, Oct 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The number of suspected cholera cases in the violence-hit Yemeni port city of Hodeidah has almost tripled, a charity said on Tuesday, warning the disease could kill hundreds of thousands of children already weak from malnourishment.
Save the Children said the health facilities it supported had recorded a 170 percent increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, from nearly 500 in June to more than 1,300 in August after violence damaged water and sanitation facilities.
Cholera, a diarrheal disease that can kill within hours, is spread by consuming contaminated food or water.
"It's a disease that only rears its head when there is a complete breakdown of hygiene and sanitation," said the charity's spokesman Bhanu Bhatnagar.
"This conflict is ravaging people's lives, there is no clean water to drink, no food to eat and the cost of living has skyrocketed, forcing some families to eat leaves to survive."
Save the Children has said Hodeidah is home to nearly 100,000 severely malnourished children who are 12 times more likely to contract and die from diarrheal diseases like cholera.
"Malnourished and weak children are far more susceptible to the disease and much more likely to die from it," said Bhatnagar in emailed comments.
More than three years of fighting has crippled Yemen's economy and healthcare system, and unleashed the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis.
More than 28,000 people have been killed or wounded during the war and 3 million have been uprooted, according to United Nations officials. Thousands more have died from malnutrition, disease and poor health.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebel group that controls the port of Hodeidah has intensified its air campaign and resumed an offensive to capture it after peace talks collapsed last month.
Hodeidah is the main port of the impoverished Arab country, where around 8.4 million people are believed to be on the verge of starvation, and a lifeline for millions.
"More than bullets and bombs, the rising death toll of Yemenis who have died from treatable and vaccine preventable diseases is the real issue," said Tarik Jasarevic, spokesman for the World Health Organization.
(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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