ICC Note: A tropical parasitic disease is sweeping across the Middle East as healthcare systems have broken down and social unrest has led to the displacement of millions. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by sand mite bites and is easily spread due to the deteriorating conditions in refugee camps among other places. The disease has commonly existed in the past in Syria but it is now being carried outside the nation’s borders as refugees continue to flee conflict zones. The lack of essential medical care and horrific living conditions is causing this parasite to turn epidemic.
06/01/2016 Syria (The Independent):A tropical parasitic disease causing serious disfiguration is sweeping across the Middle East. Cutaneous leishmaniasis has been common in Syria for centuries but recent social unrest and breakdown in the healthcare system have seen it develop into a major epidemic.
The disease is identifiable through vast sores on the skin, which can be both painful and permanently disfiguring.
Research has revealed hundreds of thousands of people are now suffering from the condition in refugee camps or trapped in conflict zones. It is thought close proximity caused by cramped conditions is facilitating the disease’s spread, compounded by lack of healthcare structures due to civil unrest and societal breakdown amid the on-going conflict and mass displacement.
Previously the disease has been largely contained to Syria. However, amid societal breakdown due to conflict there, it has increased. Lack of healthcare resources means the condition has not been treated and as people have become trapped in conflict zones they have increased in close contact with other people, further spreading the disease. Poverty and malnutrition, as well as lack of access to clean water, may be further exasperating the situation.
It appears to have spread outside of Syria partly due to refugees fleeing the area. Refugee camps often involve living in close quarters with strangers, without medical treatment facilities beyond those which can provide emergency or basic care.