UN expresses “grave concern” over cholera outbreak declared in northern Syria

The United Nations has expressed its “great concern” over the cholera outbreak decreed in the Syrian province of Aleppo (north) after 15 cases were confirmed, including one death, while nationally more than 25 patients have been detected.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, has detailed that between August 25 and September 10, 936 cases of severe watery diarrhea have been confirmed in the Asian country, including eight deaths.

Riza’s office has highlighted that 72.7 percent of the cases have been detected in Aleppo, while 21.5 percent correspond to Deir Ezzor (northeast). There have also been cases in Raqqa, Hasakah, Hama and Latakia.

Thus, 26 cases of cholera have been confirmed so far – 20 in Aleppo, four in Latakia and two in the capital Damascus, both arriving from Aleppo – which has been blamed on the ingestion of unsafe water from the Euphrates River and the use of contaminated water to irrigate the fields.

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In this regard, Riza has stressed that the outbreak is a sign of water shortages in the country in the face of a decline in the waters of the Euphrates, drought-like conditions in some areas and the destruction of infrastructure due to the conflict that erupted in 2011.

As a result, already vulnerable population is relying on unsafe water sources, while water shortages are causing many families to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as changing hygiene practices or going into debt to be able to buy drinking water.

The UN humanitarian coordinator has confirmed the launch of a health response, led by the Syrian Ministry of Health and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to address the crisis.

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In this context, early surveillance has been strengthened in areas where the outbreak has been declared and in other high-risk areas, including IDP camps, while activities to disinfect water with the use of chlorine have been increased.

Riza has further outlined that truckloads of clean water have been sent to affected areas, while religious leaders, community leaders and volunteers have been mobilized in awareness campaigns.

Finally, he warned that the outbreak poses “a serious threat” to the Syrian population and the region and called on donor countries for urgent funding to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread, as well as “sustained and unrestricted” access to affected communities.

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