The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Monday condemned Turkey and Turkish-affiliated Syrian rebels of cutting off water in northeastern city of Hasakah for more than two months while cholera cases rise in the region.
“Hasakah is still under a humanitarian catastrophe as the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries continue to cut off drinking water in the province depriving one million citizens from water for 72 days in a row,” the city’s governor told UNICEF executives on Monday.
The accusations from Damascus came as at least 36 people have died of cholera in north and east Syria in the last three weeks, while approximately 6,000 people are estimated to have caught the disease.
The United Nations last month warned against a serious cholera outbreak in Syria while the World Health Organisation also warned that the epidemic could spread to other parts of the country.
After 11 years of civil war, only 50 percent of water and sanitation systems function properly across Syria, with eight main water systems that have been severely affected.
Cholera, a highly contagious bacterial disease caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water, can result in death if left untreated.
In addition to water cuts, the cholera outbreak in Syria could also be linked to raw sewage in the Euphrates River, which runs across Turkey, Syria and Iraq and is the main drinking water source of 30 percent of the population in Syria.
“These trucks are going to the Euphrates River and are collecting water, but they are not treating it. And then they’re selling it to communities who don’t even have the water they need to survive,” said Jennifer Higgins, coordinator of policy and advocacy for IRC Syria, told the Telegraph.
Turkey, which sees the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in north and east Syria as a national security threat, has recently escalated pressure on Kurdish-controlled territories. Ankara repeatedly declares plans to launch a new military offensive to build a 30-km safe zone in north Syria which it intends to clear off Kurdish forces.