A nurse attends to a boy infected with cholera at a hospital in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida on Sunday. Image Credit: REUTERS

Sana’a: Al Houthi rebels have declared a state of emergency over a deadly outbreak of cholera that has spread rapidly in the Yemeni capital.

The Al Houthi-run health ministry said cases of cholera had worsened and that it was “unable to contain this disaster”, in a statement carried overnight by the rebels’ Saba news agency.

It launched an appeal for help from international humanitarian organisations to deal with the crisis.

Hafid Bin Salem Mohammad, the rebel health minister, said the “scale of the disease is beyond the capacity” of his department, in a statement on Al Houthi-run Al Masira television.

Yemen is witnessing a devastating war between the Iranian-backed Al Houthis and the Saudi-supported government, and less than half of the country’s health facilities are functioning two years into the conflict.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday the cholera outbreak has killed 115 people and left 8,500 ill between April 27 and Saturday.

International relief agencies on Sunday warned of a catastrophic humanitarian situation and urged citizens to exercise hygiene precautions.

“We now are facing a serious outbreak of cholera,” Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations at the ICRC, told a news conference in Sana’a.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expressed fears that health authorities alone will not be able to deal with the outbreak.

“MSF calls on international organisations to scale up their assistance urgently to limit the spread of the outbreak and anticipate potential other ones,” it said in a statement.

This is the second outbreak of cholera, a bacterial infection contracted through ingesting contaminated food or water, in less than a year in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

The World Health Organisation now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.

The United Nations has warned 17 million people - equivalent to two-thirds of the population - are at imminent risk of famine in Yemen.

More than 8,000 people have been killed since Al Houthis overthrew the internationally-recognised government in 2014, according to the WHO.

The Yemeni government says aid isn’t reaching those in need because rebels have intercepted 63 ships and 223 convoys carrying humanitarian aid to areas under their control.