WHO warns of increased risk of disease epidemics in Syria and in neighbouring countries as summer approaches

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Syrian family in a WHO mobile clinic in Damascus. [WHO Photo]

The World Health Organization (WHO) is deeply concerned about the increasing cases of communicable diseases inside Syria and among displaced Syrians in neighboring countries in the region. And it warns that lack of prevention and control measures will create a potential risk of outbreaks.

Over the past two years, Syria's health system has been severely disrupted. At least 35% of the country's public hospitals are out of service, and in some governorates, up to 70% of the health workforce has fled, resulting in severe shortages in qualified health personnel, limiting availability for those in need of health care services.

WHO Spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic says for the first quarter of 2013, Syria's early warning system for disease outbreaks, which covers all of the country's 14 governorates, reported significant increases in a number of diseases.

“What we are seeing is an increase in the numbers of hepatitis A, acute watery diarrhoea, typhoid fever and cutaneous leishmaniasis. Some of these diseases were being seen from last year. Some of them we se increase now for example measles – there were no measles cases in Syria before because the coverage as 95 per cent and right now we have 139 confirmed cases of measles because of the immunization coverage going down.”

Jasarevic says an additional concern is that as people move out of Syria to other countries, they are taking these diseases to neighboring countries.

WHO says it will continue to monitor the situation, provide life saving medicines to its network of NGOs and health facilities and work with ICRC and UNICEF to do water quality testing and try to purify water where possible.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’40″

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