At least 29 people have been killed due to a cholera outbreak in several regions of Syria, in what the United Nations has called the worst outbreak in the war-torn country for years.
Rapid assessment testing confirmed 338 cases since the outbreak was first recorded last month, with the bulk of deaths and cases in the northern Aleppo province, the Syrian health ministry said in a statement on Monday.
230 cases were reported in Aleppo province, with 25 people confirmed dead.
The UN this month said the outbreak was believed to be linked to the irrigation of crops using contaminated water and people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River, which bisects Syria from north to east.
The UN has made an urgent appeal for funds to control the outbreak as well as approvals to “ensure timely delivery” of life-saving medicine and supplies.
The highly contagious disease has also spread to the country’s Kurdish-held northeast and opposition areas in north and northwestern Syria, where millions have been displaced by the decade-old war in the country, medical officials said.
Suspected cholera cases have risen to 2,092 in the northeast of Syria since the outbreak was announced this month, said the United States-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), which operates in the region.
It said there were fears that cases had been significantly under-reported.
The UN has warned the outbreak underscored “severe shortages of water” throughout Syria, where much of the population relies on unsafe water sources following the destruction of the national water infrastructure in the war.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been made homeless since protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 escalated into a civil war that drew in foreign powers and left Syria carved into zones controlled by rival parties.
The situation has been made worse by drought-like conditions that have caused water levels along the Euphrates to drop. Farmers have also blamed Turkey’s water policies for the decrease in flow.