A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen has killed 242 people, and left almost 23,500 others sick in the past three weeks alone, the World Health Organization said Friday.
"The speed of the resurgence of the cholera epidemic is unprecedented", Nevio Zagaria told the press by telephone in a regular press briefing here.
He said the death toll from the outbreak has already reached 240 and more than 50,000 cases have been registered in the past three weeks.
Caused by the ingestion of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium from faecally contaminated water or food, cholera's sudden onset of acute watery diarrhoea and can kill within hours, although three-quarters of infected people show no symptoms.
Yemen has been ruined by two years of civil war, with 18.8 million people needing humanitarian aid, many of them on the brink of starvation, and less than 45 percent of health facilities fully functional.
At the same time, he said, lacking electricity meant water pumping stations were only functioning in an intermittent way, and the sewer systems were damaged.
Highlighting the "underfunding of the health, water and sanitation sector", Zagaria urged the global community to support health workers, some of whom haven't been paid in over seven months.
On Sunday, a state of emergency was declared in Yemen's opposition-held capital, Sanaa, after the outbreak killed scores of people over a two-week period. This is the second outbreak in less than a year in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.
"The population is using water sources that are contaminated", he said.
Zagaria said the United Nations agencies were preparing to "release an emergency response cholera plan in the next 48 hours", aimed to dramatically increase the number of treatment centers and rehydration centers.
At the same time, he said there was a dire need for funding to help Yemen authorities to make the necessary infrastructure repairs.
Since March 2015, the Saudi regime has been engaged in a brutal campaign against Yemen in an attempt to reinstall Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the president who resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh.