(NEW YORK) — The humanitarian crisis in Syria caused by the two-year-long civil war is becoming more dire, the World Health Organization announced on Tuesday, due to outbreaks of hepatitis A and other diseases caused by poor hygiene.
The New York Times reports the problem is the result of various factors, including the failure of clean water to reach different areas of Syria besieged by the ongoing conflict, and the shuttering of a third of the nation’s hospitals. Adding to the conundrum is doctors fleeing for their own safety.
According to Elizabeth Hoff, the organization’s representative in Damascus, a vaccine can be used to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, a serious and highly contagious liver disease.
Meanwhile, another United Nations organization, UNICEF, says it will begin a program to provide chlorination supplies to treat water for more than 10 million people in Syria.
News of serious diseases spreading rapidly throughout Syria is another element of the humanitarian crisis spurred by the war between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition forces, with more than 60,000 deaths since March 2011.
There are at least 755,000 Syrians registered by the U.N. as refugees, with the number expected to double during the year if the conflict isn’t resolved. The world organization estimates that four million Syrians still in the country urgently need assistance.
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Reed Alexander and James Griffiths, CNN
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN
Barbara Starr, CNN
Ben Westcott, CNN