Conflict, crisis fuel cholera surge across Mideast hot spots: U.N. Published: July 31 2010 Conflict, drought and political dis-
Conflict, drought and political dis-
The Associated Press, Sunday, August 8, 2010
DAMASCUS, Syria — The most violent months of Syria’s five-year struggle for a more prominent place in the Middle East’s political landscape have brought a flood of refugees into Turkey, worsening the already challenging security situation.
The fighting has also fueled the spread of cholera to the Middle East’s most vulnerable states and neighboring countries. The disease, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in Egypt alone, has now reached Syria in what has been called a “regime-changing” assault.
The most vulnerable to the disease are the very first-stage victims from the conflict: children who have been abandoned by their families and are living in overcrowded camps.
“Every day is like a funeral procession for children,” said Mohammed Ali, the head of a children’s charity in a Damascus suburb that has become home to thousands of children with no homes of their own. “They live in a world of chaos and death. It is a miracle they are surviving at all.”
The U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates that as many as 3.7 million Syrians have been displaced during the violence, though many of the refugees are no longer residents of Syria.
In the past few weeks alone, more than 70,000 people have crossed the border into Iraq, joining another 1.3 million already there. The flow into Iraq has accelerated since July, when U.S. airstrikes against Syrian troops in neighboring Iraq prompted the Iraqi government to start screening and deporting the refugees.
In Syria, the fighting has pushed people from the city center to the outskirts, where they are in danger of being killed by shelling and airstrikes if they fail to heed the orders of their guards.
In the camp, Mohammed Ali said there were so many refugees from the fighting “that we don’t have room for them, and we cannot accept them in our city.”
In Turkey, officials have struggled to cope with the influx and are scrambling to find space for the desperate refugees.
Thousands of Syrians are arriving on the