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Diphtheria Cases Threaten Yemeni Areas Falling Under Militia Control

Diphtheria Cases Threaten Yemeni Areas Falling Under Militia Control

Wednesday, 7 August, 2019 - 08:00
A Yemeni child infected with diphtheria lies on a hospital bed. Getty images
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat
Othman Moqbel had to sell cattle and take his sick son to a city hospital in the Yemeni governorate of Ibb where he received the shocking news that the boy had diphtheria. Five days after getting a sore throat, nine-year-old Abdullah was dead.

More than 200 Yemeni children residing in areas falling under the control of Houthi militias have for the past three years died of diphtheria, a serious bacterial infection that is fatal in 5 to 10 percent of cases and particularly lethal for children.

Abdullah’s story is one of misdiagnosis at a village medical facility and missed signals. The local doctor did not immediately suspect it, and the boy’s father decided to take him to the city hospital only after his condition deteriorated. But it was too late.

According to available data, 3,906 people have in the same period been infected with diphtheria in Houthi-controlled areas. Out of the 218 patients who had died, 89 percent were children.

Around 61 percent of the infected children were aged between one to 14 years.

The governorates of Ibb and Hodeidah are the most infected.

Moqbel held the Houthi health ministry in Ibb responsible for his son’s death.

A healthcare professional at a hospital in Ibb told Asharq Al-Awsat that misdiagnosis is the main reason for a patient’s death as is the case with the nine-year-old boy.

The source accused the Houthis of intentionally spreading diseases among Yemenis, saying the militias fail to implement awareness campaigns.

“Had Abdullah’s father known about the diphtheria’s symptoms and how to deal with them, he wouldn’t have lost his son,” said the healthcare worker, who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“Rather than carrying out awareness campaigns on the dangers of lethal diseases, the militias have been transformed into tools to implement the programs and objectives of the Khomeinists,” he said in reference to the Iranian regime.

Asharq Al-Awsat also learned from medial sources in Sanaa that the Iran-backed Houthis have launched an anti-vaccination campaign in areas controlled by them.

They said the insurgents stopped a major vaccination drive in Sanaa that had entered its fourth day, urging residents not to administer the drugs to their children and harassing the vaccinators.

The Houthis have also closed several vaccination centers in the capital, they said.

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