Deadly cholera outbreak spreads to all 14 of Syria's provinces, UN official says

Deadly cholera outbreak spreads to all 14 of Syria's provinces, UN official says
3 min read
26 October, 2022
UN OCHA operations director Reena Ghelani told the UN Security Council cholera is 'rapidly spreading' throughout Syria, where it is now present in all 14 provinces.
The UN estimates that 24,000 people have contracted cholera in Syria [ Rami Alsayed/NurPhoto/Getty-file photo]

Cholera is now present in all of Syria's 14 provinces and is "rapidly spreading" throughout the country, a United Nations official said on Tuesday, calling for more donations.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) operations director Reena Ghelani addressed the UN Security Council in New York, warning that the outbreak has been exacerbated by serious water shortages.

Cholera is a potentially deadly infection contracted by people consuming water or food containing cholera bacteria. There are currently outbreaks in several countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and Haiti. The World Health Organization has called cholera "extremely virulent".

"More than 24,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported and cases have been confirmed now in all 14 governorates. At least 80 people have died so far. This is a tragedy, but it should not come as a surprise," said Ghelani, according to an OCHA transcript.

"Millions of people across Syria lack reliable access to sufficient and safe water, and the health system has been devastated by over a decade of conflict."

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Ghelani blamed damaged water infrastructure, serious drought-like conditions, and a lack of rainfall for the crisis.

She said a water station could not service almost one million people in the city of Hasakah and nearby camps from 11 August to 20 October, adding that some water reportedly made it to the city on Saturday.

Ghelani warned that the "crisis is likely to get even worse", saying the "outlook from now to December suggests an increased probability for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures".

"If this materialises, it will further exacerbate an already dire water crisis," she said.

"The equation is simple: when people drink the same contaminated water that they use to irrigate their crops, and when they do not have sufficient water to practice proper hygiene, waterborne diseases spread, causing people, especially children, to fall ill and sometimes die."

An UN-coordinated three-month cholera response plan asks for slightly more than $34 million to help 162,000 people with health and $5 million of water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, Ghelani added.

She said the Syria Humanitarian Fund and Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund, UN pooled funds, are to "make around $10 million available to partners across the country".

"We are grateful to the donors who have pledged new support to the cholera response, but much more is needed," said Ghelani.

"It is now also critical that donors convert their generous pledges into early disbursal of funding."