UOSSM calls for WHO assistance for leishmania outbreak

The Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations announced on Tuesday that assistance from the World Health Organizations and other international medical agencies would be needed to stop a leishmania outbreak in Syria.

In the two years since the civil war broke out in Syria, approximately 100,000 people were infected with leishmaniasis, compared with 3,000 to 4,000 cases in Syria prior to the conflict. The outbreak has also spread to Turkey and it is threatening to become a regional public health crisis.

"The sharp increase in the number of reported cases of leishmania in Aleppo and Idlib provinces, denotes the re-emerging of the disease, that is directly linked to the extensive annihilation of public health infrastructure, and the abandonment of Syrian local authorities from municipal maintenance and services," Daher Zidan, a UOSSM project manager, said. "The majority of those cases were reported in areas that are heavily affected by the conflict, and areas with high poverty and inaccessibility to good sanitation, due to water shortage and garbage build up that amplifies the growth of the sand fly."

According to the World Health Organization, leishmaniasis is a poverty-related disease connected with displacement, malnutrition, poor housing, gender discrimination, illiteracy, a weak immune system and a lack of resources. The disease is transmitted to humans via bites from a sand fly infected with the protozoal parasite Leishmania.

The UOSSM estimates the budget needed to treat and control the outbreak is approximately $180,000 and it urges the international community to contribute to the cause.

The UOSSM is a coalition of non-governmental, humanitarian and independent organizations meant to provide medical and humanitarian aid to Syrians.