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Global Communities Ramps up WASH Services in Response to Cholera Outbreak in Syria

Published 11/25/2022 by Global Communities

Syria_Atmeh camp aerial view_Nov 2022

Atmeh, Syria – Global Communities is responding to a major cholera outbreak that has been spreading across Syria, ramping up water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for more than 157,000 internally displaced people at Atmeh camp in northwest Syria.

Between August 25 and November 5, at least 35,569 suspected cases – including 92 deaths – have been recorded in the country, where over a decade of conflict and years of drought have left millions with little access to clean water, safe sanitation or basic health care.

Given that cholera is a highly contagious diarrheal disease, typically spread through contaminated water, it is particularly dangerous for those living in overcrowded, unsanitary environments. Left untreated, it can kill within hours due to rapid dehydration.

Aiming to reduce this risk and prevent the cholera outbreak from spreading further, Global Communities took immediate action and made changes to key program activities at Atmeh camp, where we have been providing WASH services since 2016.

In addition to increasing the chlorination of water from boreholes and other sources in Atmeh, staff have also started conducting more frequent water quality tests and are aiming to increase the average supply of safe water per person per day. Global Communities has also increased the inspection and repair of the public water network in the camp while giving technical recommendations for repairs to private ones.

To reduce the risk of contaminating water sources with sewage, we began more frequent cleaning of Atmeh river and all open drainage channels in Atmeh. We also increased the frequency of desludging (clearing out) private and public sewer tanks and pits as well as inspecting and repairing public sewer networks and systems in Atmeh once a week.

“Atmeh is one of the oldest, most complicated and overcrowded informal camps for internally displaced people in northwest Syria (NWS). This increases the risk of disease transmission between residents,” said Ahmet Salkini, senior WASH program manager for Global Communities’ Turkey/Syria mission. “Thankfully, several weeks after the first reported case of cholera in NWS, only two deaths have been recorded in Atmeh camp, and both were not related to WASH services provided by Global Communities. This gives us an indicator that we should continue the precautions we already started to protect IDPs here.”

As more than a decade has passed since Syria’s last cholera outbreak, Global Communities has focused on raising awareness among community residents about how to keep their children and families safe from the disease through household visits, in-person and remote group awareness sessions and the distribution of printed and electronic education materials. Recommendations include handwashing with soap, avoiding all types of drainage and wastewater, eating well-cooked meals, avoiding unclean fresh vegetables, and understanding the risk of using unchlorinated water or ice. In the coming weeks, we will distribute soap bars as part of feminine hygiene kits provided by the humanitarian cross-border pipeline.

Aside from these ongoing activities and services, Global Communities is coordinating closely with relevant actors, including the United Nations’ WASH and Health clusters, and participating in all relevant meetings, trainings, coordination groups and mailing groups. Moreover, our WASH team is working closely with health partners in the camp and referring individuals suspected of having cholera for treatment.


About Global Communities’ Work in Syria

Global Communities began providing humanitarian assistance in Syria in 2014, following the start of an armed conflict that has lasted more than a decade and uprooted more than half of the country’s population. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), we have been providing essential water, sanitation and hygiene services to Atmeh camp in northwest Syria since 2016, including improved water supply, solid waste management, sanitation system supply and hygiene promotion for camp residents. Learn more at globalcommunities.org.