By Mohamed al-Samei
The death toll from a diphtheria outbreak in war-torn Yemen has risen to 72 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.
In a statement, the UN agency said some 1,193 suspected cases of diphtheria have been registered in 20 of Yemen’s 23 provinces.
It listed Ibb and al-Hodeidah provinces in central and western Yemen as the hardest-hit by the diseases.
Diphtheria spreads as easily as the common cold through sneezing, coughing or even talking, according to health officials.
Mainly affecting children, diphtheria can cause devastating epidemics if left unchecked.
Impoverished Yemen has been dogged by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country. The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.
The ongoing violence has devastated basic services, including water and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation in Yemen as one of “the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in modern times”.