Syrians displaced by earthquakes fear cholera outbreak as infections rise


Abdel Moneim Hamdo and his family – including his eight children – had moved to the Al-Iman camp close to Idlib from Atarib near Aleppo following the deadly earthquakes that hit Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6, bringing mass destruction, levelling scores of buildings, and killing tens of thousands of people.

He recently rushed his two children to the hospital to check whether they had contracted cholera after they complained of severe stomach aches that did not seem to resolve.

“After doing some tests, it turned out they were suffering from acute gastroenteritis as a result of consuming contaminated water,” Hamdo said, highlighting the major lack of access to clean water and sanitary toilet facilities at the camp.

Millions of Syrians were already displaced by a decade-long brutal conflict. Following the recent humanitarian disaster that killed nearly 6,000 people in northwest Syria and displaced countless others, local healthcare organisations have raised warnings against a looming outbreak of communicable diseases, given the severe shortage of clean drinking water and shelter.

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Since then, the number of people getting infected with cholera has been on the rise. And there are widespread concerns that refugee camps in the area lack enough resources to control an outbreak.

While cholera is caused by eating and drinking contaminated food or water, its common symptoms include vomiting, watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain and difficulty urinating, and high fevers as well.

At least 6,458 new cholera cases were recorded in February, with two confirmed deaths, according to the Early Warning and Epidemic Response Program (EWARN) in northwest Syria. The total number of cholera deaths recorded in the region since the outbreak began last year has now reached 22, the Syria Civil Defence – also called the White Helmets – informed.

A further surge in cases is possibly inevitable due to the weakened infrastructure and contamination of water sources with sewage. With earthquake victims prioritised at most healthcare facilities now, cholera patients aren’t possibly receiving the required attention. An urgent launch of a vaccination campaign could help contain the infections.



Raven Ruma is a professional journalist with a keen eye on domestic and foreign situations. His favorite pastime is to keep the public informed about the current situation through his pen and he is fulfilling this responsibility through the platform of Arab News.

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