In a Syrian hospital crowded with women and crying children, Ahmad al-Mohammed writhed in pain next to his wife after they contracted cholera, which had resurfaced for the first time in years.
During six days of treatment, Mohammad watched as patients streamed into Al-Qasra Hospital in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, where the highly polluted Euphrates River is the main source of contaminated water used for both drinking and irrigation.
“We suffered from diarrhoea, vomiting and pain… because we drink straight from the Euphrates river,” the 45-year-old man, who could barely speak, told AFP from the hospital.
“The waters of the Euphrates are polluted, but we have no other choice.”
Cholera is usually infected by contaminated food or water and is spread in residential areas where there are no proper sewers or water mains.
The disease is making its first major comeback since 2009 in Syria, where nearly two-thirds of water treatment facilities, half of pumping stations and one-third of water towers have been damaged in more than a decade of war, according to the United Nations. .
The Syrian government has reported 23 deaths and more than 250 cases of cholera in six of the country’s 14 provinces since the outbreak began in September, with most cases concentrated in the northern province of Aleppo.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish administration, which rules northeastern Syria and parts of Deir ez-Zor, has recorded 16 deaths and 78 cases in areas under its control, including 43 cases in western Deir ez-Zor, it told reporters on Wednesday. health representative Juan Mustafa.
He said testing of water in the Euphrates proved the presence of the bacteria responsible for cholera – a spread he said was caused by the decline flow of water.
Said to have once flowed through the biblical Garden of Eden, the Euphrates flows nearly 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) through Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
When it rains, it offers a bountiful supply, pouring into northern Syria across the Turkish border and flowing diagonally across the war-torn country towards Iraq.
Syrian Kurds have also accused Turkey of holding back more water than necessary at its dams.
The reduction in water flow has exacerbated the problem of river pollution, mainly by sewage but also by oil in hydrocarbon-rich regions including Deir ez-Zor.
Despite the pollution, more than five million of Syria’s roughly 18 million people rely on the Euphrates for drinking water, according to the UN.
The cost of this addiction was visible at Al-Qasra Hospital, where a man gently rocked his infant, an intravenous tube piercing the child’s tiny arm.
The director of the hospital, Tarek Alaeddin, said that the facility receives dozens of suspects cases of cholera every day and counted hundreds of cases in the last three weeks.
“All the patients drank water delivered by trucks that extract it directly from the Euphrates River, without filtration or sterilization,” Alaeddin said.
“We call on all international organizations working in the field of health and environmental protection to act quickly and urgently,” he said.
“we must live”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier this month that the disease had spread to western parts of Deir ez-Zor after local authorities they stopped distributing chlorine to water pumping stations.
The Kurdish administration, which controls parts of Deir ez-Zor, including Al-Qasra, said they had resumed distribution after the outbreak.
They also announced assistance to Al Qasr and other health facilities in the region to help contain the number of cases.
But the main source of the problem remains largely unsolved.
Ahmad Suleiman al-Rashid, a 55-year-old farmer, said he irrigated his fields of cotton, okra, spinach and sesame with water from the Euphrates, causing the crops to become infected.
“There are no water filtration stations…we drink unsterilized and unchlorinated water and rely on God for protection,” he said.
“What else to do? The government is to blame.”
As he spoke, a rusty truck pumped water out of the murky green Euphrates.
Meanwhile, irrigation pipelines siphoned water from the river, leaking what appeared to be oil onto the ground.
“We know the water is contaminated…but we still drink it,” Rasheed said. “We have no other option.”
A young boy was splashing in the river nearby water on his face to cool off in the summer heat, while 60-year-old Sobha Hameed Ali sat in the shade and peeled spinach leaves.
She is also aware of the danger, but said there is little she can do.
“We are being forced to eat infected vegetables,” Ali said in a low voice. “You still have to live.”
© 2022 AFP
Citation: ‘Drink it anyway’: Syria cholera outbreak peaks with water (September 22, 2022) Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-09-syria-woes-peak-cholera- outbreak.html
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