Why A Man Is On An IV In His Car Outside A Hospital In Yemen
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Yemen, war has been tearing the country apart for two years. Iran backs a group known as the Houthis. They control the capital. The U.S. supports a Saudi-led coalition that's trying to retake the city. Now another killer is stalking the country - cholera. Yemeni authorities have declared a state of emergency, and they're calling for international help to stop the fatal disease. Dominik Stillhart is with the International Committee of the Red Cross and he joins us from Yemen. Thanks for being here.
DOMINIK STILLHART: Thank you very much.
SHAPIRO: How bad is this latest cholera outbreak?
STILLHART: Well, I've just spent the past four days here in Yemen. And the latest figures as far as cholera outbreak is concerned, there are now more than 11,000 suspected cases, 187 people have died. And the disease seems to be spreading like wildfire.
SHAPIRO: This disease is spread through water. Do people have access to clean water sources? Do they have access to medical care?
STILLHART: Well, this is precisely one of the problems here after two years of brutal conflict that has brought this country to its knees. And this resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian situation. Not only 8,000 people were killed in the conflict and 44,000 wounded, in addition there is all the vital infrastructure, like public services - health, water, sewage, sanitation, garbage collection - that are running dangerously low and are creating the conditions for a further spread of the disease.
SHAPIRO: And so when you visit a hospital in the capital, Sana'a, what do you see?
STILLHART: Well, I visited two hospitals, actually, and both of them have received hundreds of new cases of people affected by watery diarrhea and suspected cholera. And especially one of these two hospitals, the scenes were really heartbreaking because we saw up to four people in one single hospital bed, sharing a bed, patients waiting in the garden outside. And I even saw one man sitting in his car with an IV drip attached to his window because there was no - simply no place anymore in the hospital.
SHAPIRO: Yemeni authorities are asking international aid organizations for help. But what kind of help can international aid organizations reasonably provide in a situation as chaotic as this war?
STILLHART: Well, in this particular case, it's really a question of supplying health centers, hospitals with the necessary medical supplies such as IV fluids, rehydration salt and chloride tablets. It's a question of accelerating garbage collection in some of the towns where garbage is simply piling up, has been piling up for weeks. And this can be addressed by organization in support of the authorities. And we need to ensure that in places of detention, which are very crowded places, cholera doesn't spread and we are very much present in these places of detention.
SHAPIRO: Dominik Stillhart is the director of global operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He spoke with us via Skype from Yemen. Thank you for joining us.
STILLHART: Thank you very much.
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