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Unsubstantiated Data and Contradictory Reports on Cholera Cases and Fatalities in Syria

Miray Aljarrah Miray Aljarrah
13th September 2022
Unsubstantiated Data and Contradictory Reports on Cholera Cases and Fatalities in Syria
The Health Ministry has denied media reports (Getty).

On September 12, 2022, the Syrian Health Ministry announced that laboratories in Aleppo province had confirmed Cholera cases, an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.

There have been discrepancies in the information provided by various news agencies and the Syrian government regarding the number of people who have died and been infected with cholera in the country.

On September 12, 2022, news agencies reported that hospitals in Damascus announced the death of at least three people in the country due to a recent cholera outbreak. It was also reported that hospitals raised their alert levels and declared a state of emergency in order to combat the disease.

Other social media users reported the cholera-infected deaths of five children in southern Syria.

The Kurdish Government Reports Cholera Cases

The Kurdish administration in Northern Syria declared the death of three people affected by the disease in northern and eastern Syria. They requested assistance from the World Health Organization in order to contain the outbreak.

On September 11, 2022, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported seven deaths from cholera in Deir ez-Zur, as well as the infection of dozens.

The organization also stated that the disease outbreak is the result of contaminated drinking water, which occurred after local authorities stopped distributing chlorine to water pumping stations for three months.

Official Statement From the Syrian Ministry of Health

On September 12, 2022, the Syrian Ministry of Health denied the allegations, stating that there were only two deaths in Aleppo due to illness. They also stated that the cause of death was a failure to seek medical attention and a chronic illness.

The Ministry added that 20 cholera cases were recorded in Aleppo, 4 in Latakia, and 2 in Damascus of two Aleppo residents, one of whom had no symptoms.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that hospitals have been supplied with cholera medication in preparedness for an expected increase in the number of patients.

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Number of Cholera Cases Reported by the UN and WHO

Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean Region, stated that the organization has documented eight cholera deaths since August 25 of this year. He also revealed that six of those deaths occurred in Aleppo City and two in Deir ez-Zur.

The UN conducted a rapid assessment of the situation in Syria and found that drinking water and irrigating crops from the polluted Euphrates River may be causing the cholera outbreak. The destruction of the country's infrastructure forces the population to drink water from unsafe sources.

Imran Riza, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria has expressed serious concern about the country's cholera outbreak.

Nonetheless, due to Syria's division and the control of different parties over its territory, it is difficult to reach an accurate figure for Cholera infections and deaths. The Syrian government controls the central and southern governorates, while the Syrian opposition controls the northern areas.

What Is the Cholera Disease?

Cholera is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that can spread from person to person through the ingestion of water that has been contaminated. Cholera leads to severe dehydration as well as diarrhea, and if the symptoms are not treated right away, the disease can be fatal.

The World Health Organization has estimated that there are between 1.3 and 4.0 million cases of cholera each year, which results in between 21,000 and 143,000 deaths around the world due to the illness.

Misbar’s Sources 

AP News
Asharq Al-Awsat English
Ahram Online
Women's Section CMO - HT