Lebanon has recorded its first case of cholera since 1993, likely the result of a serious outbreak in neighboring Syria crossing the porous border between the countries, caretaker Health Minister Firas Abiad said in an interview on Thursday.
Abiad said the case was recorded on October 5 in the rural northern Lebanese region of Akkar and that the patient, a Syrian national, was receiving treatment and in stable condition.
A cholera outbreak in Syria has claimed dozens of lives and is posing a danger across the frontlines of the country’s 11-year-long war, stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running water or sewage systems.
The outbreak of the waterborne disease there was first linked to contaminated water near the Euphrates river that bisects the country but has spread nationwide, with thousands of suspected or confirmed cases reported.
The widespread destruction of national water infrastructure after more than a decade of war means much of the Syrian population is reliant on unsafe water sources.
Lebanon's water infrastructure is also derelict and the healthcare system has been hit hard by a three-year financial crisis and the August 2020 Beirut port blast that destroyed critical medical infrastructure in the capital.
Despite humanitarian aid from donor countries, Abiad said the sector would struggle to cope with a large-scale outbreak.
“We have a very clear signal that the Lebanese healthcare system needs support to strengthen the system,” he said. “Otherwise ... it won’t be able to hold.”