BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey isn’t ensuring an adequate water flow downstream into the Euphrates River in Syria, worsening a water crisis believed to have increased the spread of cholera in the war-torn country, a prominent rights group said Monday.
Human Rights Watch also blamed the Syrian government for “discriminatory diversion of aid and essential services” from areas controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Syrian officials and United Nations agencies announced in September that a cholera outbreak was sweeping the entire country. The outbreak is due to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates Rive r and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, according to the U.N. and the Syrian Health Ministry.
In the government-held areas of Syria and in areas in the country’s northeast held by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces, there have since been roughly 17,000 cases of cholera and at least 49 deaths. In rebel-held parts of the country more than 3,000 cases have been registered.
“This devastating cholera outbreak will not be the last waterborne disease to impact Syrians if the country’s severe water problems are not immediately addressed, particularly in the northeast,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Turkey can, and should, immediately stop aggravating Syria’s water crisis.”
HRW said Turkish authorities have failed to ensure an adequate water flow downstream into parts of Syria that the Euphrates cuts through and a consistent water supply from the Allouk water station. The station is a critical source of fresh water located in northeast Syria under the control of Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters.
A poor rainfall season and disruptions at the Allouk station, which serves hundreds of thousands of people in the region, have also contributed to the crisis, HRW said.
Syria’s 11-year conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and caused wide damage to the country’s infrastructure and medical sector.
The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said it urgently needs $40.5 million to continue its work in Syria and neighboring Lebanon for the next three months.
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