The World Health Organization is warning of an increased risk of disease epidemics in Syria and neighboring countries as summer approaches.
The WHO says outbreaks of diseases carried in water – specifically hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and dysentery – are inevitable, given the severe disruption to Syria’s health system.
Cases of diarrhea and hepatitis-A have more than doubled since January.
There have also been outbreaks of measles and typhoid.
According to the WHO, at least 35% of the country’s public hospitals are out of service, and in some areas, up to 70% of the health workforce has fled.
“All the risk factors that enhance the transmission of communicable diseases in emergencies are present in the current crisis in Syria and its neighboring countries,” said Dr Jaouad Mahjour, director of the department for communicable diseases at the WHO’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean. “We are anticipating a number of public health risks from water-borne diseases, specifically hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Given the scale of population movement both inside Syria and across borders, together with deteriorating environmental health conditions, outbreaks are inevitable.”
The WHO says cases of measles have reappeared in Syria, due to problems running national vaccination campaigns.
The number of confirmed cases of measles in the first quarter of 2013 reached 139, compared with no cases in the whole of 2010 and 2011, says the WHO.
There have also been reports of measles, tuberculosis and cutaneous leishmaniasis – a disease carried by insects – among displaced Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
“Jordan had previously reported zero cases of measles for three years, and was planning to officially declare that it was measles-free,” said Dr Mahjour. “The situation will deteriorate if prevention and control measures are not scaled up soon.”
Medical facilities are often actually targeted during conflict as a way of depriving the enemy of medical assistance. Inevitably this hits civilians even harder than the military who are far more mobile and often have doctors in their ranks.
ANY collapse situation, natural or man-made leads to the kind of problems Syria is now facing. Katrina, Haiti and the Indonesian quake were all followed by outbreaks of disease, as were the Kosovo and Bosnia conflicts.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple where this article first appeared. Wake the flock up!