Conflict, crisis fuel cholera surge across Mideast hot spots




  • In World
  • 2022-11-04 06:23:53Z
  • By Associated Press

BHANINE, Lebanon (AP) - Shadia Ahmed panicked as rainwater flooded her shack one night, drenching her seven children. The next morning, the kids were seized by vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms.

After an aid group administered tests for cholera in Ahmed's Syrian refugee encampment in the northern Lebanese town of Bhanine, her youngest, 4-year-old Assil, tested positive.

Cholera has swept across Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq as the countries struggle with devastated infrastructure, turmoil and housing large populations of people who have been displaced by conflict. Lebanon last month reported the first cholera case in nearly 30 years.

The bacterial infection has surged globally across dozens of countries this year, with outbreaks in Haiti and across the Horn of Africa as well as the Mideast. The outbreaks of hundreds of thousands of cases driven by conflict, poverty, and climate change are a major setback for global efforts to eradicate the disease.

"Cholera thrives in poverty and conflict but is now turbocharged by climate change," said Inas Hamam, a regional spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. "Regional and global health security is in jeopardy."

Anti-cholera efforts focus on vaccination, clean water and sanitation. Last month, WHO announced the temporary suspension of a two-dose vaccination strategy because production couldn't meet surging demand. Officials are now administering single doses so that more people can benefit from the vaccine in the short term.

A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. While most cases are mild to moderate, cholera can cause death if it's not treated correctly.

"I would spend the whole night taking her to the bathroom, giving her medication, washing and sterilizing her," Ahmed, 33, said of Assil, her child who got cholera. "I couldn't sleep, and was up all night just looking at her. I feared the worst."

Assil and her siblings eventually got better; she was the only confirmed cholera case in the family.

Across the border in Syria, officials and U.N. agencies announced last month that a cholera outbreak was sweeping the entire country. The outbreak in Syria is due to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, according to the U.N. and the Syrian Health Ministry.

In the government-held areas of Syria and in the country's northeast, held by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces, there have since been roughly 17,000 cases of cholera and 29 deaths.

In the rebel-held Idlib province of Syria, most of the 4 million residents are displaced from the conflict. They depend on international aid and live in tent camps.

Over half of Idlib does not have regular access to water. Many families use polluted water from wells are that close to sewage.

There have been 3,104 cholera cases and five deaths in Idlib province. Dr. Abdullah Hemeidi of the Syrian American Medical Society anticipates a surge this winter.

"The health care system in the area is weak," Hemeidi said. "Medical organizations and local councils are trying to sanitize water and they are holding workshops to limit the spread."

In the Salaheddine camp in the opposition-held countryside northwest of Aleppo, children play near sewage. Community workers hold awareness sessions for residents.

"We're worried it will spread in our camp," resident Jamil Latfo said.

Iraq has struggled with cholera outbreaks for years. In Lebanon, the disease was rare for decades.

Three years ago, Lebanon fell into an economic crisis. Most Lebanese now rely on water trucked in by private suppliers, and private generators for electricity. Utilities can't buy fuel and pump water into households.

Since last month, Lebanon has reported 2,421 cases and 18 deaths. About a quarter of these cases are children under the age of five. The Vibrio cholerae bacteria has been found in drinking-water, sewer systems, and irrigation water.

The country hosts more than a million Syrian refugees. Most cases of cholera have been detected in refugee camps, Lebanon's Health Ministry says.

In Bhanine, Ahmed and her children are tucked between apartment buildings, along with dozens of other Syrian refugees. The families live in weak wooden shacks with tarp walls and ceilings. They share three toilets and three sinks.

Like most households in Lebanon, camp residents buy water trucked in by private suppliers. The state does not test the water for safety.

"The water was contaminated but we had no choice but to use it," resident Ali Hamadi said. "There was no drinking water, let alone water to clean, wash the dishes, wash our clothes or for the shower."

U.N. aid agencies started providing clean water for the camp, while disinfecting walls and doors and holding information sessions. They're also donating fuel to the Lebanese government so that authorities can pump water again.

"The support we offer cannot replace the service lines and the national electricity grid, which is basically not functioning most of the time," said Ettie Higgins, deputy representative for Lebanon of the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF.

WHO has been working with Iraqi health authorities to help bolster their cholera response, visiting water-treatment plants and testing laboratories in Baghdad last month.

UNICEF said it urgently needs $40.5 million to continue its work in Lebanon and Syria for the next three months.

"These camps are fertile ground for the outbreak of an illness," said Hemeidi, of the Syrian American Medical Society. "We won't be able to properly respond to it unless there is an intervention with medical equipment and aid."

______

Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Ghaith Alsayed in Idlib, Syria, contributed.

COMMENTS

More Related News

'She is alive!' Powerful quake kills more than 2,300 in Turkey, Syria; rescuers dig through rubble. Updates.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.8 quake struck at 4:17 a.m. local time along the Turkish-Syrian border. President Biden vows support.

EXPLAINER - Why was the Turkey-Syria earthquake so bad?
EXPLAINER - Why was the Turkey-Syria earthquake so bad?
  • US
  • 2023-02-06 15:16:31Z

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday is likely to be one of the deadliest this decade, seismologists said, with a more than...

Deadly earthquake exacerbates suffering of displaced Syrians
Deadly earthquake exacerbates suffering of displaced Syrians
  • World
  • 2023-02-06 11:58:29Z

A steady stream of injured were flowing into an overwhelmed hospital in the town of Darkush, in rebel-held northwestern Syria on Monday, after a deadly...

Putin says Russia ready to help Syria and Turkey after major quake
Putin says Russia ready to help Syria and Turkey after major quake

President Vladimir Putin offered Russian assistance on Monday to Syria and Turkey after a major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 killed more than 500 people and...

Live updates | Russia readies aid for Turkey, Syria
Live updates | Russia readies aid for Turkey, Syria
  • US
  • 2023-02-06 05:30:53Z

The death toll is rising from a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit southeast Turkey and northern Syria early on Monday. Russia says it is readying...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

  • MGC Movers has been providing quality movers and packers services solutions to individuals and corporations on a local and international level. Our professional team can save your time and cash while moving your home, villa, flat and corporate office.

    MGC Movers mission is to deliver excellence moving services and conjointly our concern to use latest attainable apply to take care of the top quality Levels, to ensure swish relocation and keep the trust of our valued customers that they're our real assets.

    • Local Moving (Villas, Flats, Offices)
    • International Moving (Air, Sea, Land)
    • Corporate Moving / Warehouse Moving
    • Self Storage Services
    • Wall Paint Services
    • Furniture Dismantling & Reassembling
    • Handyman Services
    • (Curtains Fixing, TV Mounting)

    REPLY

Top News: World