Concern mounts over Syrian refugees’ health as war intensifies, heat simmers

Concern mounts over Syrian refugees’ health as war intensifies, heat simmers

The Syrian war, which has already killed close to 100 000 people, has intensified in the past few weeks as forces loyal to embattled President Bashar al Assad, helped by Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Iranian militiamen, have launched major assaults on all fronts to recapture the ‘strategic territories’ so far occupied by rebel forces.

As the conflict shows no sign of ending up soon, and continues to ‘regionalise’ as various regional armies, such as Israel and Islamist radical groups, enter the fray, the plight of civilian populations, especially the elderly, and women and children, who are already living in dire conditions due to a lack of shelter, water and basic sanitation, begins to worry humanitarian groups.

Oxfam International on Monday sounded an alarm bell, warning that  Syrian refugees were facing health risks as summer approaches in coming weeks, and as temperatures set to soar up to 104ºF (40°C) in the coming weeks.

“We are starting to really worry about the health of Syrian refugees. Too many are living in inadequate shelters such as an empty shopping centre or the outskirts of a cemetery. These shelters have no toilets, little water and garbage has started to pile up. With high summer right around the corner, refugees living in poor sanitary conditions are facing serious risks of diseases,” Rick Bauer, Oxfam Regional humanitarian coordinator, said.

“Health risks must be urgently addressed,” he said. “Increased cases of public health-related diseases such as diarrhea and skin infections have already been recorded in host communities and temporary settlements where an increasing number of refugees now live.

“Just in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, there are now some 240 tented settlements, six times the amount recorded in January.” Oxfam said it was aiming to raise some 53.4 million USD over the next year, but so far its appeal is only 23% funded (US$10.6m).

*Photo: courtesy of Reuters. Syrian civilians carrying young children seen here running from war to cross over to Turkey.

 

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