Earthquakes pose severe long-term impacts on the health of Syrian refugees

Among those in greatest peril after the devasting earthquakes in the Middle East are some 6.6 million internally displaced persons in Syria, as well as 1.9 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, according to estimations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Marwan Osman is a public health researcher focused on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance at Cornell University. Osman says the earthquakes pose severe long-term impacts on regional and global health.

Osman says:

"These earthquakes have created significant drivers of infectious diseases – overcrowding in makeshift shelters, inaccessibility of healthcare services, malnutrition, lack of food safety and contaminated drinking water.

"The delivery of aid to quake-hit areas is further complicated by the long-running civil war between opposition forces and the Syrian government. This massive displacement, coupled with the breakdown of healthcare services, increases the likelihood of diseases spreading quickly and spilling across borders.

"Even before the earthquake, Syria has been the subject of increased rates of cholera, tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis A, poliomyelitis, meningitis and scabies – particularly in disfranchised populations and refugee camps.

"Our work in Syrian refugee camps focuses on assessing the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance at the human-animal-environment interface, especially among extended-spectrum cephalosporin-, carbapenem-, and colistin-resistant Enterobacterales lineages, which have been listed by the World Health Organization as high-priority pathogens. We believe this data will be critical for understanding drug resistance in conflict regions."

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