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Disease Spreads As Syria Casualties And Drug Shortages Grow

posted 4 Jun 2013, 07:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 4 Jun 2013, 07:36 ]

After more than two years of conflict, Syria's health and sanitation facilities are in a desperately poor state, leading to unhealthy living conditions and the spread of disease.

AZAZ VILLAGE, ALEPPOSYRIA  (VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS) -  As Syria's civil war stretches beyond two years, the living condition of Syrians continues to deteriorate.

In the northern district of Azaz in the city of Aleppo, an overwhelming stench permeates the city due to the lack of municipal trash collection service, leaving huge piles of rubbish in the streets and accelerating the spread of diseases.

Syria is also suffering severe shortages of drugs and medicines, according to theWorld Health Organisation.

Many of the main drug-makers in the war-torn country have closed down, leading to a reduction in the availability of medicines for the rising number of casualties and those with chronic conditions.

A pharmacist interviewed in Aleppo, the city which has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the Syrian conflict, said the area was suffering from poor health care.

"This area suffers from bad medical care, there are many patients, many of them suffer from serious diseases, and there aren't enough doctors around, most of them went abroad, we have serious cases such as diabetes, blood pressure, cancer and tuberculosis, and lately there has been an increase in the spread of skin diseases," said Ali al-Hamwi.

Ninety percent of Syria's pharmaceutical plants are located in rural AleppoHomsand Damascus provinces and they have suffered substantial damage from the fighting.

Many pharmacies now only supply limited goods such as over-the-counter pain killers and basic first aid.

Al-Hamwi also pointed to the spread of leishmaniasis, a disease caused by a parasite transmitted by a tiny sandfly that can lead to severe scarring, often on the face.

"In Aleppo and it's countryside there is a thing that can be easily transmitted by sandfly, this phenomenon is increasing because it is also being transmitted through the groundwater, and it spreads through the whole body, we spoke to doctors about this, and we discovered that throwing corpses in the rivers is one of the reasons that are leading to this, and also because of the lack of healthcare in the area," he said.

In March, Syrian opposition campaigners said at least 20 bodies of young men shot by security forces were found in a small waterway running through the contested city of Aleppo.

It was the largest number of bodies lifted in a single day from what became known as "the river of martyrs", after 65 bodies turned up in late January. Several bodies a day have been appearing in the river since, according to several activists in the city.

The supervisor of Azaz Municipal council, Abo Fouad, said the area needed more resources to help improve the conditions.

"We need the equipment and the tools to clean the area from garbage, Azaz is full of garbage, and we also need trucks to carry the dumps away, there is also a shortage of workers in the area and we need pesticides to avoid the spread of diseases," he said.

Syria's vast and under-funded public health system was already struggling when protesters took the streets to demand democratic rights in March 2011.

President Bashar al-Assad - a trained eye doctor - sent forces to crush the revolt and two years later a civil war has left more than 80,000 dead.