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Typhoid, hepatitis outbreaks leading to 'humanitarian tragedy' in Syria

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Four million in strife-torn Syria are in dire need of food, shelter and medicine, according to the United Nations. There is a growing humanitarian crisis in this Middle Eastern nation, as such deadly diseases as typhoid and salmonella have gone on to infect the population.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the rebel-held north of Syria remained largely out of reach of aid operations, even though they had been stepped up elsewhere in the country torn by civil war.

"We are watching a humanitarian tragedy unfold before our eyes," Amos says. "We must do all we can to reassure the people that we care and that we will not let them down."

The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad still refuses U.N. convoys entry from Turkey into northern Syria.

The World Health Organization says that typhoid has broken out in an opposition-held region due to people drinking contaminated water from the Euphrates River. It's estimated that 2,500 people in northeastern Deir az-Zor province have been infected with the contagious disease. Typhoid produces chronic diarrhea and can be fatal is left untreated.

"There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people drink water from the Euphrates which is contaminated, probably with sewage," the WHO representative in Syria, Elisabeth Hoff, told Reuters news agency.
In addition, Hepatitis A, another water-borne disease which can cause epidemics is spreading in areas such as Aleppo and Idlib. as well as in crowded shelters for displaced people in Damascus.

"This is typical when you see water and sanitation systems totally break down. Between 50 and 70 people share toilets in many shelters in Damascus," Hoff said.

Leishmaniasis, a tropical disease transmitted by sand-flies that causes skin ulcers resembling leprosy, is spreading in Syria and there are now 14,000 cases in Hassakah province in the northeast.

"It is a very high number and spreading with the movement of people. Internally displaced from Aleppo have brought it to Tartous," Hoff said.

There are more than 850,000 Syrians now living as refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa. About 3,000 people are fleeing the country every day.

The United Nations says that about 70,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March, 2011.

The U.N. this week hosted a Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, attended by senior aid officials from UN agencies, the European Union and other humanitarian groups.

The Syrian government has approved the deployment of three further international aid groups, UN spokesman Jens Laerke told a news briefing. Eight international non-governmental organizations have been allowed to operate to date.

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