In the aftermath of the earthquake, WHO and UNICEF launch a cholera vaccination campaign in northwest Syria.
In earthquake-ravaged northwest Syria, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a cholera vaccination campaign in collaboration with health authorities, the Syria Immunization Group (SIG), and the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI).
1.7 million doses of cholera vaccine will be distributed during the campaign to protect Syrians over the age of one, particularly those living in areas most severely affected by the earthquake and at highest risk of cholera, such as Sarmada, Maaret Tamsrin, Dana, and Atmeh districts in Idleb, and A’zaz district in northern Aleppo.
The ten-day campaign will be implemented by 1,400 teams of health workers and community volunteers using a house-to-house strategy, as well as reaching displaced people living in camps, markets, and school sites.
“The World Health Organization warns of an increase in water-borne diseases for over 2.1 million Syrians living in the country’s northwest, with the risk increasing significantly in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, particularly in overcrowded camps and collective centres,” says Dr. Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director for WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. “The WHO and its partners must act immediately to prevent further illness and death. Because cholera vaccines are administered orally, it is critical that targeted populations are reached before the start of Ramadan, as most adults will be fasting.”
“After years of conflict and two catastrophic earthquakes, the dangers that unsanitary conditions and unsafe water pose to children may appear insignificant, but we know that if waterborne diseases take hold, the effects can be disastrous,” said Maddalena Bertolotti, UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This vaccination campaign is critical because it will provide much-needed protection for children and their families while also assisting in the control of the disease’s spread, which could put millions of people at risk.”
Almost 50 thousand probable cases have been documented in the governorates of Aleppo and Idlib since the epidemic was initially proclaimed in Syria on September 10, 2022, with 18% of those cases originating from IDP camps. The week of the earthquake in week 6 of 2023 had a 63% dip in reported cases, which was reflected in the decrease in presentations and reporting. As surveillance commenced, 1,784 additional cases were reported in week 8 of 2023. After the earthquake, there is still an urgent need to step up surveillance and response for diseases that are prone to outbreaks, with a focus on the spring season because it will witness a change in the circulating pathogens.