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Responding to Cholera Outbreak in Syria and Lebanon

  • January 25, 2023
  • Access to Medicines, Communicable Disease
  • Lebanon, Syria
  • Americares partner Shafek receiving a shipment in their warehouse and then distributing it to hospitals in Syria, Jun. 16, 2020. (Photo/Shafak)

Americares is responding to cholera outbreaks in Syria and Lebanon by supporting prevention and treatment efforts that aim to reach over 110,000 children and adults over the next three months.

After years of decline, cholera cases began increasing globally in 2021 with more than 29 outbreaks across 23 countries, according to the World Health Organization. The bacteria that cause the potentially life-threatening disease is typically found in water or food that has been contaminated by waste, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak in Syria was first reported by the Syrian Ministry of Health in September 2022. As of mid-January, 555 cases were confirmed and 20 deaths were reported in north-west Syria and over 37,700 suspected cases were reported in Idleb and Aleppo—mostly in children under age 5—according to the United Nations.

Americares is partnering with the Syrian American Medical Society to provide cholera treatment supplies, as well as to support two cholera treatment centers in the Idleb area and 10 out-patient rehydration points in Idleb and Aleppo.

In the same region, Americares is also supporting a three-month cholera prevention and nutrition screening project and hygiene kit distribution in partnership with Shafak. Four teams of community health workers and nutritionists plan to reach 8,000 individuals with education on cholera prevention and malnutrition through awareness sessions, referrals of suspected cholera cases to treatment, and screening for and referring malnutrition cases for treatment.

Two Shafak workers checking shipment in open truck.
Americares’s partner organization Shafak, a Syrian based NGO delivering shipment in 2020.

“Our response strategy is a two-pronged approach that supports both cholera treatment and prevention,” said Americares Interim Vice President of Emergency Programs Betsy Warfield. “When it comes to cholera treatment, quick re-hydration is crucial to recovery. And cholera education is essential for stopping the spread of the disease.”

In Lebanon, where a cholera outbreak was first reported October 2022, Americares is working with Anera to support cholera prevention and water treatment in five of the most populated Palestinian camps and through 17 partner health centers. Anera plans to reach 102,000 community members by improving safe water access at wells and schools, disseminating cholera prevention knowledge and distributing 1,000 hygiene kits to households who attend awareness sessions through the end of February 2023.

Americares has a long history of responding to cholera outbreaks, including the 2015 outbreak in western Tanzania, the 2012 outbreak in Sierra Leone, the 2011 outbreak in Somalia, and outbreaks in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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