The United Nations (U.N.) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Imran Riza, issued an urgent appeal for an effective response to the ongoing cholera outbreak. Health authorities consider the main source of the infection is the severe water shortage throughout Syria, with the Euphrates River levels decreasing and the widespread destruction of the national water infrastructure. The unsafe drinking and irrigation water sources are risky for dangerous water-borne diseases, particularly among children, such as cholera which the U.N. defines as an indicator of inequity.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 50 per cent of water and sanitation systems are not operating properly due to the destruction of water facilities across the country during the ongoing conflict.
In July, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) reported Turkish forces’ targeting of infrastructure, including water and power stations, in a state of emergency declaration regarding Turkey’s imminent military operations on Syrian territory.
The Syrian Ministry of Health confirmed 15 positive cholera cases, including one death, in Aleppo governorate on 10 September. AANES surveillance system identified an additional 99 suspected, 17 positive cases and at least two deaths in the northeastern region. A total of 936 severe acute watery diarrhoea cases were reported across the country between 25 August and 10 September.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recorded eight deaths from the disease since 25 August. “This is the first confirmed cholera outbreak in recent years… The geographic spread gives cause for concern, and so we have to move fast,” said Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, to Reuters.
“The outbreak presents a serious threat to people in Syria and the region,” said the U.N. representative, urging the donor countries for additional funding to prevent the infection from spreading and further death.
The U.N. in Syria also called on the neighbouring countries to expedite the necessary approvals for delivering life-saving medicines and medical supplies.