A dozen more people have died of cholera in a region of Syria devastated by earthquakes that killed over 10,000 people in Syria and over 44,000 in neighboring Turkey.
About three dozen people have died of the disease in northwest Syria since the outbreak began last year. Emergency responders said that the “destruction of infrastructure, water and sewage lines after the earthquake increases the possibility of an outbreak of the disease.” Cholera is an infection that leads to severe diarrhea, caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
The earthquakes have aggravated filthy and overcrowded conditions in refugee camps in the region, which already lacked sanitation and access to clean water. “Even before the earthquake, the area was severely affected by a lack of proper sewerage systems as 63 percent of the refugee camps lacked proper sewerage and 43 percent lacked access to clean water,” said activist Nour Qormoosh.
Hospitals and doctors are struggling to treat people injured in the February 6 earthquakes. “They are trying to cope with a lack of funds as the UN’s response is getting slower with time and is not meeting the increasing need for medical attention,” Qormooush said.
Hundreds of thousands of residents are homeless after their homes were destroyed by the earthquakes, and conservative estimates say that 20,000 buildings were destroyed in northwest Syria or left inhabitable.
“Thousands of people have been living in shelters provided by NGOs since the beginning of the disaster, and they are severely crowded,” Qormoosh said. “The environment they are living in right now will be infected by diseases, especially the latest spread of cholera.”
the UN Security Council said last week that the cholera outbreak had been aggravated by “severe shortages” of clean water across the country. Conditions worsened due to the fact that Syria’s wet season was “unusually dry.”
The cholera outbreak was first found near contaminated water around the Euphrates River. It has since spread to both government-controlled and rebel-held areas in a nation torn apart by more than a decade of civil war.
On February 6, two huge earthquakes struck the southeastern region of Turkey near the border with Syria on Monday, killing thousands and toppling residential buildings across the region. The first measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and hit while most people were asleep. The second measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and came hours later.