Communities living in Syria and Lebanon, already struggling with armed violence and an economic crash, have been hit by cholera, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.
Cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhea gripping Syria and Lebanon add to the suffering of the people in the two neighboring countries, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Separately, the World Health Organization said there are 29 cholera outbreaks worldwide, but it has not given specific numbers for Syria and Lebanon.
“After decades without a single case of cholera, the outbreaks that have been recently declared in Lebanon and Syria mark an unwelcome comeback in those countries,” according to the WHO.
“This is part of a worsening pattern across the region and the globe,” said the world health body, as eight of 22 countries in the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region are grappling with cholera and acute watery outbreaks of diarrhea.”
Need for urgent control
Cholera can cross borders, placing the Eastern Mediterranean Region and neighboring countries at increased risk and heightening the need for urgent control, warned the WHO, describing it as “a wake-up call.”
“In addition to struggling with the consequences of armed violence and an economic crash, communities living in Syria and Lebanon are paying the price of overstretched healthcare systems,” the ICRC said.
Fabrizio Carboni, the regional director for the Near and Middle East for the ICRC, said, “A public health emergency is the last thing these two countries need.
“In addition to immediate assistance, longer-term support and more durable solutions aiming to promote the resilience of essential infrastructure are of vital importance.”
More than 11 years of conflict in Syria have seriously damaged the water network, reducing supply by between 30 and 40%, and only 52% of the country’s hospitals are operational, said the ICRC.
Areas of high population density, such as detention facilities and displacement and refugee settlements, are particularly vulnerable, said the ICRC.
“The spread of acute water diarrhea and cholera is just the tip of the iceberg. For years now, the ICRC has been working to prevent critical infrastructure that is too big to fail from a collapse that would force millions into crisis,” Carboni said.
“We will continue to encourage all those who can support stabilizing these infrastructure facilities to do so. This is a humanitarian imperative, and it will help prevent an already dire situation from becoming even worse.”
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