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Cholera and Conflict in Yemen


Mehron S. Dhillon

University of California, Irvine
Daniel Na

University of California, Irvine
Christopher R. Kawata

University of California, Irvine
Jacelyn Swede

University of California, Irvine
Parth N. Patel

University of California, Irvine
Angelika F. Ringor

University of California, Irvine
Joshua Chu

University of California, Irvine
Andrea C. Nicholas
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
University of California, Irvine


This case study explores the 2016–2018 cholera outbreak in Yemen and how political and financial circumstances impacted relief efforts. Students research the basics of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium and then amplify their understanding in class through the use of a role-play activity representing a doctor-patient interaction. This is followed by a second in-class activity in which students participate in a simulation of a small town in war-torn Yemen illustrating how cholera spreads and the strains that are placed on the healthcare system. A PowerPoint presentation is used in class to help guide the activities. Additionally, the teaching notes include an optional post-class extension based on the cholera outbreak in London (“Cholera in the Streets”), which allows students to critically analyze factors within a fictional town and engage with public health policies surrounding outbreak scenarios. The case was designed for an advanced IB or AP high school biology class, or for use as part of an introductory college-level biology course.


  • Describe how cholera infects and affects patients, and understand the basics concerning diagnosis and treatment of cholera.
  • Describe the cholera outbreak in Yemen and identify the factors that contributed to the spread of the disease.
  • Understand how separate events during the Yemeni civil war have affected the general state of healthcare in Yemen and the mortality rate of the population.
  • Integrate knowledge of the disease and political issues to offer solutions to outbreak and epidemic scenarios.
  • Demonstrate how widespread disease and limited resources place strain on medical institutions, resulting in significant disruptions in the effectiveness of healthcare delivery.


Yemen; cholera; outbreak; epidemic; infection; diarrhea; civil war; diarrheal disease; medical aid; humanitarian; sanitation; bacterium; Vibrio cholera; Yemeni civil war; hospital simulation; game-based learning

Topical Areas

Policy issues, Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Directed, Role-Play, Game



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Epidemiology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below can be used in class to structure and guide the case study activities.

  cholera_role_play.pptx (~4.4 MB)

Answer Key

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