Hatay, Turkey’s quake-hit southern city, is now grappling with infestations of rodents and flies. The presence of untreated rubble, collapsed infrastructure, and sanitation issues has created ideal breeding conditions for rodents and flies, posing significant risks to public health.
Sevdar Yılmaz, president of the Hatay Medical Chamber, expressed concern over the escalating problem, revealing that the number of breeding areas has increased from 120,000 to over 1 million. Local administrations are struggling to cope with the crisis, necessitating immediate intervention from the central authority, Yılmaz emphasised in an interview with Bianet’s Ruken Tuncel.
Yılmaz warned that without immediate action, the city could face outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and malaria. Diarrhoea cases have already started to rise, and there are concerns about the spread of typhoid. The situation is particularly dire for Syrian refugees in Hatay, who had limited access to vaccines during their flight to and residence in Turkey, leading to increased vulnerability among the community with an already diagnosed adult measles case.
The increase in rodent populations, including rats and mice, can be attributed to damaged buildings that have not been demolished, as well as uncleared rubble. Debris and waste accumulation inside these structures have become ideal breeding grounds for millions of flies, exacerbating the rodent problem. Inadequate spraying efforts have worsened the situation further.
Yılmaz also highlighted the health risks associated with rodent bites, noting that while the bites themselves may not pose an immediate threat, rodents can transmit diseases like typhoid through their feces. Another concern is the transmission of leptospirosis, a rare microorganism that can lead to kidney failure.
Efforts to address the issue have been hindered by the limited resources of the Hatay Metropolitan Municipality, which currently operates with only 65 vehicles. The Turkish Medical Association has called for doubling that number, stating that the work previously carried out with 103 vehicles is now being handled with insufficient resources. The association emphasised that urgent action is needed and called for the provincial sanitation committee to convene.
Both the provincial municipality of Hatay and the district municipality of Defne acknowledge the gravity of the situation and are working on implementing pest control measures. However, the lack of adequate equipment and the partial or complete privatisation of almost all municipal services have contributed to exacerbating the problems in the earthquake-stricken region.
Hatay has faced additional challenges in a recent crisis related to rented rubbish bins. The sudden removal of these bins after their rental period expired has worsened hygiene conditions, leading to increased issues with flies and insects for the earthquake survivors.