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Syria’s forgotten crisis: sanitation

A Syrian refugee child plays with a tub of water in Jordan's Za'atari camp. Many Syrians - both inside and outside their country - cannot access enough clean water or sanitation
(Heba Aly/IRIN)

Bombs, clashes and airstrikes have killed at least 92,000 in Syria, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But millions of people - and more still across the region - are at risk due to something much less discussed: sanitation.

Summer heat, shortages of clean water, a crumbling health system, breakdowns in waste management services, and overcrowded conditions in common shelters have led to a rise in potentially life-threatening diseases.

As summer temperatures rise, poor hygiene and sanitation are an increasing concern. The World Health Organization wrote last month: “outbreaks are inevitable.”

Up to 8,000 Syrians leave every day, often for overcrowded camps in neighbouring countries. The scale of population movement means that the threat is not just confined to Syria. Already, diseases have appeared in Turkey and Jordan that had not been seen for years, if not decades, before the Syrian crisis.

“The international community must now seriously view the ever worsening humanitarian and health situation as a threat to regional security and their own national interests,” public health doctors Adam Coutts and Fouad M. Fouad wrote in The Lancet medical journal on 29 June.

Coming up, IRIN takes a look at this forgotten angle of the Syrian crisis:

For more, check out warnings by the World Health Organization and UNICEF as summer approached; a recent call by two doctors to take Syria’s public health catastrophe more seriously, and IRIN’s previous reporting on the lack of water and sanitation inside Syria as well as its crumbling health care system.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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