Cholera outbreak in Syria reaching Turkish borders

A cholera outbreak that started in Syria’s Aleppo province has spread throughout the war-torn country’s northwest and reached the Turkish border.

The first case was confirmed on Sept. 19 in Jarablus, under control of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups. At least 169 cases and 18 deaths have been registered between August 25 and Sept. 30 in northwest Syria, ReliefWeb reported citing the United Nations’ EWARN.

Shortages in water and hygiene supplies have exacerbated the cases, the humanitarian network said. Northern Syria in general has been having issues receiving supplies or humanitarian aid due to issues at border crossings.

Estimates of cholera-related deaths go as high as 39, while total infection estimates range from 2,000 to 5,900.

The United Nations and Syrian authorities both point to the Euphrates, which flows from Turkey into Iraq and Syria. Irrigation with contaminated river water has been determined as the source of the outbreak.

Two-thirds of Syria’s water treatment plants, half of its pumping stations and a third of its water towers have been damaged in the civil war that broke out in 2011, the United Nations estimates.

Syrian Kurds, who control north east Syria along the Turkish border, have accused Turkey of cutting off water to the region since 2019, via the Alouk station in Turkish-controlled areas and by damming the Euphrates.

Iraqi Kurdish outlet Bas News reported that the outbreak had spread in all Syrian provinces, citing the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO’s Philip Barbosa, head of the cholera and diarrheal diseases team, told reporters that the situation was “developing at an alarming pace”.

Jarablus, Azez and other Turkish-controlled cities and towns are among the worst affected.

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