Progression of the ongoing cholera outbreak in Yemen

The largest ever cholera outbreak is currently ongoing in Yemen. In less than 2 years, over 1 million people have gotten cholera, and over 2,000 have died. For comparison, the devastating Haiti cholera outbreak took 7 years to reach the scale that the Yemen outbreak reached in just 6 months.

Data from WHO situation reports aggregated by the Humanitarian Data Exchange

I’ve taken data from the Humanitarian Data Exchange (which aggregated WHO situation reports on the outbreak), and put them into an animation, so we can more clearly see the scale of the devastation, as well its its timescale. This animation is only current up until the end of February 2018.

Cholera is an entirely preventable disease, with both an effective vaccine, and cheap, effective treatments. So, an outbreak of this scale is nearly unconscionable in the modern day. It is a disease of poor and damaged infrastructure; it is what happens as a result of conflicts and massive natural disasters. When vaccination efforts have to be halted because of unrelenting conflict, it is condemning the most vulnerable people in the population to suffering from disease. Death by starvation and disease are silent; they don’t cry out to the public attention as much as other atrocities such as chemical weapons, or bombing schools and hospitals. People often see disease as an impartial, random killer, but preventing receipt of resources needed to fight disease is creating unequal suffering just the same as the more direct weapons of war.

Data from WHO situation reports aggregated by the Humanitarian Data Exchange. Attack Rate is cases per 1,000 individuals

Though most of the cases are within Al Hudaydah governorate, the highest attack rates per 1000 people are actually in Amran province, to the east. Note that an attack rate of 83 cases per 1000 people means that almost 1% of the entire population is affected. When you consider that many older adults have immunological protection versus cholera, this is a staggeringly high number.

The speed of the spread of this outbreak is pretty much unprecedented, and the degree of media coverage this has gotten is, frankly, appalling. I am hoping these animations can make this outbreak a little more salient in peoples’ minds.

My R code for generating these animations can be found here, on Github.

A public health nerd. I make graphs in R.

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