GENEVA - A cholera outbreak is feared in coming months in Syria, where other water-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and typhoid are on the rise due to poor sanitation, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday.
Safe drinking water is available at about one-third of the level it was before the conflict erupted nearly five years ago, and supplies are cut-off to punish civilians at times, it said.
Some 31,460 cases of hepatitis A were reported in Syria last year and more than 1,000 cases have been recorded per week since January, said Dr. Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria.
"This normally we see when the weather is warmer and so on. But it just tells you people no longer have the same access to safe drinking water as before," Hoff told a news briefing.
"Going into the warmer season, what we are particularly concerned about ... is cholera, this is our main fear, but so far we haven't seen it.
"But quite clearly the situation is going much more critical," she added. "Water has been used for political dividends and has been turned off to certain areas and that leads people to drink water from unsafe areas,"
Cholera, an intestinal infection often linked to contaminated drinking water, causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, leaving small children especially vulnerable to death from dehydration, according to the U.N. health agency.