Growing cholera outbreak in Syria infects hundreds, 39 dead

A deadly cholera outbreak in Syria has killed at least 39 people and infected hundreds more this past month, health officials say, raising concerns about whether the war-torn country can put a stop to its spread.

The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is believed to be linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.

The outbreak hit government-held parts of the country as well as the areas in the northeast. Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its yearslong war and much of the country is short on cleaning water supplies.

In government-held areas, the Health Ministry reported 23 deaths, 20 of them in the northern province of Aleppo in addition to at least 253 cases.

In areas of northeast Syria controlled by US-backed Kurdish-led fighters, Jwan Mustafa, the top health official in the region reported 16 deaths since Sept. 5, and 2,867 suspected cases of cholera. In the rebel-held northwest, the first case was reported this week.

The cholera outbreak is the first in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. The civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population, many of whom now live in crowded tent settlements.

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