Human Rights Watch has accused the Turkish government of exacerbating a deadly cholera outbreak in Syria by restricting the flow of aid and water to the Kurdish-controlled northeast of the country.
Syria has recorded 81 deaths and more than 24,000 suspected cases of the highly dangerous disease since September, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the first outbreak in the country in more than a decade.
A Kurdish health official told reporters at the time that the Syrian Kurdish authorities also accused Turkey, its neighbor and arch-enemy, of using water as a weapon through a clampdown on the river – allegations that Ankara has denied, according to London’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. “Turkey can and should immediately stop exacerbating Syria’s water crisis,” said Adam Coogle, deputy director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. “The devastating cholera outbreak will not be the last waterborne disease affecting Syrians if the country’s acute water problems are not addressed immediately.”
Right to water
The newspaper added that cholera is generally transmitted from contaminated food or water and is spreading in residential areas lacking adequate sanitation systems or drinking water pipes. Human Rights Watch said: “Long-standing restrictions on aid access in Kurdish-controlled areas have left healthcare facilities and humanitarian groups operating in northeast Syria scrambling to respond to a disease that could spread rapidly.” Within Syria, the Euphrates River flows mostly along territory controlled by semi-autonomous Kurdish authorities, whose US-backed fighters drove ISIS from the last extremist ditch on Syrian territory in 2019.