29 die in major cholera outbreak in Syria

Damascus, Sep 26 (EFE).- Officials said on Monday that a cholera outbreak in northern Syria had killed 29 people in the past two weeks as the conflict-ravaged country battles its worst health crisis in 11 years of war.

Health ministry official Zuhair al Sahwi said the northern Aleppo province was the worst hit, with 25 deaths and 230 cholera cases in the country’s first major cholera outbreak in 13 years.

The highly contagious disease has spread across all the regions of the country, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

Al Sahwi urged people to seek medical help in case of suspected infections, warning that “delays in seeking medical attention have caused most deaths.”

The outbreak was declared on Sep.10 in the northeast Kurdish region of the country.

The region accumulated more than 2,000 cases, said the global humanitarian aid agency International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Most of those affected by cholera are in the towns that border the Euphrates River as people battle clean water and health care crises.

The United Nations has sounded an alarm, stating that the situation was critical in Syria as millions displaced by the war were facing a water crisis due to drought and declining groundwater levels.

“The source of infection is believed to be linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination,” said the UN.

Imran Riza, the UN humanitarian relief coordinator, said the Euphrates levels were dropping with drought-like conditions and national water infrastructure damaged by 11 years of war.

“Much of the already vulnerable population of Syria is reliant on unsafe water sources, which may lead to the spread of dangerous water-borne diseases, particularly among children.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said no cholera case had been reported in Syria since 2009.

The disease is caused by contaminated food or water, which becomes difficult to prevent in times of drought, conflict, and overcrowding.

The raging war has left over 7 million Syrians internally displaced, many living in large groups in small tents and makeshift houses with limited access to clean water. EFE


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