Cholera outbreak in Syria at risk of spreading – WHO

The World Health Organization warned, on Tuesday, of a “very high” risk of cholera spreading across Syria, after the country recorded its first cases since 2009.

The World Health Organization said: “The risk of cholera spreading in other provinces is very high,” after recording cases of infection in at least five of the country’s 14 provinces.

“The source of infection may be related to people drinking water from untreated sources” or “food contamination due to irrigation of plants with contaminated water,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.

On Monday, the Syrian Ministry of Health reported two deaths from cholera in government-controlled areas.

On Saturday, the Kurdish authorities reported the killing of three people in the areas of north and east Syria under their control.

The WHO said the cases are the first to be reported in Syria since 2009, when 342 cases were confirmed in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and the northern province of Raqqa.

The disease is generally transmitted from contaminated food or water and causes diarrhea and vomiting.

It can spread in residential areas that lack proper sewage systems or drinking water pipes.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said a decade of civil war has destroyed two-thirds of Syria’s water treatment plants, half of pumping stations and a third of water towers.

She added that nearly half of the population relies on alternative and often unsafe water sources while at least 70 percent of wastewater passes untreated.

The United Nations issued an urgent appeal to donor countries on Monday for additional funding to combat the outbreak.

“The outbreak poses a serious threat to people in Syria and the region,” said Omran Reza, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria.

“Swift and urgent action is needed to prevent further illness and death.”

The United Nations said the source of the outbreak was “believed to be linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, leading to food contamination”.

A cholera epidemic broke out in neighboring Iraq this summer for the first time since 2015.

Worldwide, the disease infects 1.3 million to four million people each year, and kills between 21,000 and 143,000.

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