In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

Idleb/Hasakah, Syria, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The cholera outbreak that has killed 29 people in Syria is posing a threat to the frontlines of the country’s 11-year war, raising fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running. Water or sewage systems.

Initially linked to polluted water near the Euphrates, the disease has now spread throughout the fractured country, with cases reported in government and opposition-controlled areas. In all, at least 2,000 cases have been reported so far.

“How am I not supposed to catch cholera with sewage in our tent?” Sobha Al-Jadoa, 60, who lives in a camp for the displaced in the opposition-held Idlib region, said. “We can no longer sleep or sit because of the smells. A few days ago sewage water leaked into my tent.”

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Cholera is spread by ingesting contaminated food or water and can cause severe diarrhea. The World Health Organization’s website says that while most infected people will have mild or no symptoms, cholera can kill within hours if not treated.

The devastation wrought by the Syrian conflict has left the country particularly vulnerable, destroying much of the infrastructure including water pumping and treatment stations.

Climate change has exacerbated water shortages.

“Because of the war, there has been a lot of destruction to health infrastructure and infrastructure in general, so if it spreads in these areas – especially in the camps – it could have serious health effects and kill a lot of people,” said Shahem Makki. , who runs the District Center for Disease Control.

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The war has killed about 350,000 people since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in 2011. The World Health Organization says that 55% of health care facilities in the country are not functioning because of the war.

The first cases of cholera were detected on September 5 in Deir ez-Zor governorate, before it spread to other areas including the cities of Raqqa and Hasaka, said Joan Mustafa, director of health in the Kurdish-run administration in northeastern Syria.

He said there are more than 4,350 suspected cases of cholera in northeastern Syria, and 100 confirmed cases. “Cases are increasing, but fortunately slowly,” he said.

Amsha Shehadeh, 45, said she brought her daughter to a hospital in al-Hasakah because of diarrhea and dizziness, and that her grandson had the same symptoms. “It was caused by the contamination of the tank water,” she said.

Public awareness campaigns are conducted on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera.

Eva Hinds, head of communications for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Syria, said the agency and its partners have scaled up trucking and chlorination of water in cholera hotspots to ensure access to clean water.

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“It is time to act now,” she said. “We are investing heavily in measures to prevent further spread.”

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Written by Tom Perry Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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