Cholera: A new threat to health in Syria

The world is still fighting a battle against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the threat to public health has doubled, with Cholera increasing this threat. Syria is one of the countries that has been affected by the rapid spread of Cholera.  

Lack of access to safe drinking water forces families in Syria to rely on unsafe and contaminated water sources. In some areas, people use contaminated water from rivers, contributing to the current cholera outbreak. Using this contaminated water limits safe hygiene practices.   

During the crisis in Syria, water and sewage systems suffered severe damages, with sewer lines leaking into the household water supply and posing a serious threat to health. Sewage floods, which affect the infrastructure of houses, threaten vulnerable families, and spread waterborne diseases, including cholera. 

According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview issued in 2022, over 13 million people need water, hygiene and sanitation services. 

Medair provides water, hygiene and sanitation services by repairing, rehabilitating, and equipping old, damaged water and sewage systems. Medair also focuses on increasing community awareness on safe hygiene practices, especially during pandemics and outbreaks like COVID-19 and cholera. Community health workers conduct home visits to families teaching safe hygiene practices to prevent the spread of diseases. Trainings are also given in primary health clinics supported by Medair. 

During the ongoing cholera outbreak, Medair provided clinics with medical consumables such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks. Medair will continue to conduct actions to fight the further spread of this outbreak. 

Hasan pointing to the starting point of Harabesh sewage project

Medair repaired a sewage system in Harabesh, Deir-ez-Zor. This area contains host families and internally displaced people returnees. The system was worn out because of many years of overuse.  

Hasan has lived with his family in Harabesh neighborhood in Deir-ez-Zor for about 40 years, and did not leave during the crisis.  

“This street was not touched since the 80s, due to many reasons. Dirty sewage water used to leak inside our houses, run down our streets and reach other neighborhoods.” Hasan told us.  

“About 400 families living in this neighborhood, and during the siege on Deir-ez-Zor the situation was especially catastrophic. At the time, sewage water was everywhere causing a lot of diseases, but it was a time when we could barely afford food, so it was not our priority to find medication or a solution at all.” Hasan added. 

Hasan is the “Mukhtar” of Harabesh; the person responsible for all matters in the neighborhood and the families there. 

“Before being a Mukhtar, I am also a sanitation worker, so I have enough experience to tell you that this was the first time for me to see a project being implemented with such proficiency. From the speed the project was executed in, to the attention to details and finishing, I can say that this project had an enormous impact on our lives here.” Hasan said. 

Eng. Mohammad, one of the site engineers supervising Harabesh WASH project

Eng. Mohammad is one of our site engineers for the sewage system projects in Deir-ez-Zor. He talked about his work.  

“There is one time where we were replacing a sewage pipeline in Deir-ez-Zor. At first the project included half a road, but then when we started and saw how bad the situation was, we decided to extend the project to include the whole road.” 

“At the time, we were also looking through the branches for the pipeline, and I can remember how shocked we were because of what we’ve seen; sewage water was under the buildings, and this means the threat was always there for any house to collapse at the residents at any moment.” Mohammad told us. 

One of the sewage systems repairing sites in Deir-ez-Zor during the implementation

The health and WASH teams at Medair joined efforts working together in nine Syrian governorates, providing health and hygiene services to vulnerable families 

In Syria, Medair’s work is made possible by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Swiss Solidarity, SlovakAid and generous private donors like you. 

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.