GlobalPost (Boston, MA) (02.21.13)
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that contagious diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A are spreading in Syria because people are drinking contaminated water from rivers and wells in the war-torn country. According to IRIN news service, the rising number of infections has coincided with the collapse of the country’s health system, with more than half of the hospitals damaged and more than one-third not functioning. Also, many doctors have left the areas of conflict.
The UN has registered 800 cases of hepatitis in Syria. Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria, commented, “There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people [are drinking] water from the Euphrates [River], which is contaminated, probably with sewage.”
In the town of Atmeh, approximately 12,000 refugees are living in tents. Children play in areas where rain water has formed unsanitary stagnant pools among muddy trails between the tents and garbage litters the area. Refugees complain about the lack of places to shower, the lack of water, and the bitter cold and unsanitary conditions, which result in children being constantly sick. They explain that the doctor is not always present in the medical tent; he comes late in the afternoon and if anyone is ill before that time, they simply have to wait. Also, people are being turned away from the hospital, which is only accepting those who are injured.
The UN has estimated that the war has forced approximately 850,000 refugees to leave Syria for neighboring countries. Approximately four million people still in Syria have been displaced and need aid.