Water shortages driven by climate change and conflict are putting thousands of children in north and east Syria at risk of cholera, with at least 24 people having died from the water-borne disease, NGO Save the Children has warned.
At least 24 people have died from the disease, and several thousand suspected cases have been reported across the country as of September 19, according to data taken by the charity from the Syria’s Ministry of Health and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s health committee.
“We are looking at a major outbreak if we do not act now, an outbreak which is already exacerbating the protection needs of children across Syria, adding to their suffering,” Beat Rohr, Save the Children’s interim country director, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The current outbreak of the disease which causes diarrhea, vomiting, thirst, and in the worst cases death, is thought to be caused by communities drinking infected water and food irrigated by the country’s Euphrates River, which is experiencing historic low levels of flow mainly due to Syria’s worst drought in decades, the charity said.
The United Nations just last week warned about the gravity of the outbreak in Syria, saying that the widespread destruction of water infrastructure from the war means most of the population is reliant on unsafe water sources.
“This is the first confirmed cholera outbreak in recent years... the geographic spread gives cause for concern, and so we have to move fast,” Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region told Reuters.
The outbreak is centered in the northern Aleppo region, where more than 70 percent of a total 936 suspected cases have been recorded, and Deir Ezzor where more than 20 percent were registered, Reuters reported last week.
Prior to the recent cholera outbreak, the water crisis had caused an increase in diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition and skin conditions in the region, according to WHO.