3 dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

A Yemeni child suffering from diphtheria receives treatment at a hospital in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
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3 dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

HODEIDA: Three people have died of suspected diphtheria in conflict-hit Yemen, doctors said Wednesday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned the disease was spreading.
“Currently, there is an increase in diphtheria cases, due to the poor vaccination coverage for children under five years of age,” an ICRC spokeswoman told AFP.
The WHO also confirmed diphtheria cases had appeared in Yemen, where war and a port and airport blockade has left hospitals struggling to secure basic medical supplies including vaccines.
In the port city of Hodeida, paediatrician Ousan Al-Absi at the Al-Thawra hospital said three people had died of diphtheria over the past 24 hours.
“We were surprised by the emergence of diphtheria cases here. We diagnosed and gave them emergency care as best we could,” he said.
“Some of them were dying when they arrived.”
Local man Ibrahim Al-Musbahi said he had sold all of his possessions to pay for his family to be admitted after his five children and wife came down with what doctor suspected was diphtheria.
His 11-year-old daughter, Yasmin, died on Wednesday morning. She had already been battling kidney failure when the doctor diagnosed her.
“The first one who got sick was Yasmin, and then her brothers and sisters. And then their mother got sick,” Musbahi told AFP, adding he was also feeling some symptoms.
“My financial situation is so bad I sold everything for the sake of my kids. I just wish I could find someone to take care of, to cure, my kids.”
Diphtheria, a bacterial infection that is preventable by vaccine, attacks the nose and throat and — if left untreated — the heart and nervous system.
While it is treatable, the infection can be deadly, particularly for children. The US-based Mayo Clinic estimates up to three percent of those who contract diphtheria will die.
More than 2,000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8,600 who have died in the conflict between the government and rebels since 2015.
The blockade on Yemen’s ports and airports, put in place after the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired a missile into Saudi territory, has tightened the stranglehold around Hodeida, a key conduit for much-needed food and medicine imports to Yemen.
The UN has warned that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face “the largest famine the world has seen for decades.”


Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

Updated 24 min 12 sec ago
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Fresh protests in Iraq as medics raise death toll to 11

  • Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad
  • Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people

BAGHDAD: Fresh protests hit southern Iraq Sunday as medical sources put at 11 the number of demonstrators killed in two weeks of unrest sparked by ire over corruption and lack of public services.
Security forces remained deployed around the capital Baghdad after struggling Friday to disperse crowds of angry protesters who took to the streets.
Demonstrations have roiled swathes of southern and central Iraq since erupting in the oil-rich port city of Basra on July 8, when security forces opened fire killing one person.
Overall medical sources put the death toll in the unrest at 11 people, three in each of the cities Basra, Samawah and Najaf, and one in both the cities of Diwaniyah and Karbala.
Most of them were killed by gunfire from unidentified assailants, while one person suffocated to death on tear gas used to disperse the demonstrators.
Protesters on Sunday took to the streets in the cities of Samawah and Nasiriyah, chanting “no to corruption,” a scourge Iraqis say has long blighted their country.
Since the start of the demonstrations those involved have focused their anger on the political establishment, with government buildings and party offices being sacked or set ablaze.
The Iraqi authorities have scrambled to halt the unrest and have blocked social media sites online to try to prevent the spread of protests.
Iraq is in a state of political limbo with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi overseeing a caretaker government as wrangling to form a new government drags on after elections in May.
A coalition headed by populist cleric Moqtada Sadr topped the polls, campaigning on an anti-graft ticket to claim the most seats in parliament.