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Facilities’ wastes in the Orontes, northwest Syria, cause diseases

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – The IDP Mustafa al-Razzouq, 34, in the city of Idlib, northwest Syria, sees doctor twice a week as he suffers from typhoid after swimming in the Orontes River with a number of his friends.  

Al-Razzouq suffers from pathological symptoms such as fever, general weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain, in addition to pain in the joints and muscles, and the appearance of pink spots on his body.

He said that the doctor told him, after conducting laboratory analyzes, that the contaminated water was the reason why he and two of his friends fell ill.  

The sewage of several restaurants, swimming pools, houses, and chalets along the Orontes River, pours into the river, which causes people to fall ill after swimming in it, according to doctors in Idlib.  

There are hundreds of swimming pools and parks on the banks of the Orontes River, especially in the towns of Darkoush and al-Janoudiya, in the Jisr al-Shughur region in the western countryside of Idlib, in addition to olive oil presses and nylon factories that work to drain all their waste into the river.

Residents of Idlib said that the problem of emptying contaminated water into the river is old and the pollution was limited to certain areas of the river, but the problem has recently exacerbated due to urban development and unorganized construction works on its banks, in addition to the complete absence of control over these facilities.

Skin diseases

Over the past two months, the Harem Public Hospital, north of Idlib, has received about 150 cases of various skin diseases, according to Ra’ed al-Obbi, 45, a nickname for a dermatologist.

“Among them, more than 85 people have been affected with chronic diseases as a result of being exposed to the waters of the Orontes River in one way or another,” the doctor said.  

He pointed out that most of the recorded injuries are residents of towns adjacent to the river.

Also, Ayoub Zakkour, 43, a pseudonym for a dermatologist in Idlib, has recorded 25 cases of diseases and allergies caused by swimming in polluted water during the past two months.

Swimming in polluted water is usually followed by symptoms such as poisoning, nausea, vomiting, colic, diarrhea and abdominal pain in conjunction with the appearance of spots and a thick rash, in addition to otitis, according to Zakkour.

Illegal irrigation   

While Rafi al-Suwaid, 47, an agricultural engineer in Idlib, believed that “illegal” irrigation methods by farmers is another reason for the river’s pollution.   

He stated that most of the farmers, who own orchards on the banks of the river, irrigate their crops by digging waterways that directly connect the river and their lands, where they work to spray fertilizers and pesticides in the water to ensure that they reach all the crops.  

This method negatively affects the river as a result of the return of a large amount of water mixed with these materials to the river, which leads to the death of fish and their escape, in addition to the health damage to the people who swim in it, according to al-Suwaid.

Earlier this month, Khaled al-Abdullah, 28, a pseudonym for an IDP in the city of Sarmada, north of Idlib, affected with a skin rash.

Al-Abdullah said that the symptoms of the disease began to appear on him and his children shortly after they left the river, only to find out later that they had affected with the disease, and they are now undergoing treatment in a specialized clinic.

He added that he encountered many cases of diseases in the clinic of the doctor who is supervising his treatment, “caused by the pollution of the river water.”

Reporting by Samir Awad

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