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Hodeidah offensive in Yemen sparks suspected cholera outbreak: Report

New report by Save the Children says suspected cholera cases have nearly tripled since Saudi-led coalition began moving into Hodeidah
WHO says 2,451 people have died of cholera across Yemen since April 2017, while more than a million suspected cases were reported (AFP)

Suspected cholera cases have nearly tripled in the past three months in Hodeidah, the Yemeni port city on the front line between a pro-government alliance and rebels, Save the Children said on Tuesday.

"Health facilities supported by Save the Children across [Hodeidah] governorate recorded a 170 percent increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, from 497 in June to 1,342 in August," said a report by the London-based NGO.

In late July, "air strikes resulted in the damage of a sanitation facility and water station that supplies Hodeidah with most of its water," the report said. 

"After this incident, suspected cholera cases almost doubled" between July and August in health centres supported by the NGO, it said.

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The United Nations and World Health Organisation have warned that Yemen faces a third cholera epidemic as autumn rains increased the risk of infection.

Yemen has already been hit by two major cholera outbreaks in the past two years.

The WHO says 2,451 people have died of cholera across Yemen since April 2017, while more than a million suspected cases were reported during the same period.

More than 120,000 suspected cases were reported between January and mid-August 2018, according to the UN, as a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia battles the Houthi rebels.

The coalition launched a major operation to retake Hodeidah from the rebels in June, which was put on hold for 11 weeks as the UN struggled to bring warring parties to peace talks in Geneva.

But the talks failed to get off the ground after the Houthis refused to attend over what they said was the UN's failure to guarantee a safe return to Sanaa.

Hodeidah's port is a vital lifeline for aid shipments to Yemen, the most impoverished country in the Arab world.

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Yemen's conflict has left more than 10,000 people dead since the Saudi-led coalition joined the government's fight against the Houthis in 2015, pushing eight million Yemenis to the brink of famine. 

Last week, Save the Children released a report saying that more than five million children are at risk of famine in Yemen as the ongoing war has sent food and fuel prices soaring across the country.

Disruption to supplies coming through Hodeidah could "cause starvation on an unprecedented scale," the British-based NGO said.

Save the Children said an extra one million children now risk falling into famine as prices of food and transportation rise, bringing the total to 5.2 million.

The charity has estimated that 50,000 children may have died in 2017 of extreme hunger or disease.