Top Illnesses and Diseases in War-Torn Countries


SEATTLE — Countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Libya, Central African Republic and Yemen are embroiled in conflict, imperiling the lives of millions. The spread of diseases in war-torn countries is due to poor sanitation and hygiene, overcrowding, medicine shortages and food insecurity. These countries have endangered millions of lives because it is hard for citizens to receive adequate amounts of safe drinking water and nutritious meals in refugee camps. One child dies every 10 minutes due to preventable diseases.

The International Office of Migration recently declared that a rise in the number of individuals in refugee camps coincides with the increase in the number of illnesses and diseases in war-torn countries in Africa. The following conditions are most prevalent among people who are currently seeking refuge within or outside of their respective countries.

  1. Malnutrition
    More than 400,000 children in African nations under five now suffer from acute malnutrition. The Middle East is not in a better position as nearly 2.2 million children in Yemen also suffer from severe cases of acute malnutrition. Malnutrition can exacerbate and give rise to diseases in war-torn countries, like cholera, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
    Furthermore, UNICEF is conducting localized vaccination campaigns and nutrition surveillance initiatives to address malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working alongside health authorities and other partners to swiftly respond to the risks posed by life-threatening diseases in war-torn countries. Under the WHO, the Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) is aiding in the training of health personnel and surveillance officers and assisting with the efficient detection of massive disease outbreaks.
  2. Cholera
    Cholera is growing to be very common in South Sudan. The Vibrio Cholera Bacterium produces a distinct toxin that poisons cells. Once this condition aggravates, it is hard to absorb water from the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in the secretion of large volumes of water.
    UNICEF-sponsored clinics are initiating oral rehydration therapies and distributing water purification tablets to help those impacted by these diseases.
  3. Malaria
    Malaria is becoming especially common among refugee camps along the Turkey-Syria border and many parts of Pakistan. It can culminate in the complete collapse of healthcare and body systems.  Children, in particular, are especially susceptible to this illness.China has recently transported more than 500,000 anti-malaria drugs to South Sudan to combat the threat of malaria.
  4. Polio
    This disease is still endemic in countries like Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio results in weaknesses in the muscles of the legs and diaphragm and paralysis. Immunization coverage is also quite poor in these places, and people do not have access to medicines.
    However, the Gavi Alliance board is supporting the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) as a way of addressing the humanitarian emergency it poses to refugees and vulnerable civilians. With the help of the Gavi initiative, 
    immunization programs will become more routine and efficient in combatting such diseases in war-torn countries.

    The cost to extend the project till 2020 is more than $250 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) currently lead this initiative.

  5. Hepatitis E
    This particular infection is a liver disease and is caused by the HEV virus due to the consumption of contaminated food and water. The disease passes through the faecal-oral route. Hepatitis E impacts more than 20 million individuals worldwide every year. The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization has been reviewing the state of the disease and the immunogenicity of the vaccine since 2015.

  6. Measles
    An estimated 2.6 million children under the age of 15 are at risk of contracting this disease in Yemen. A lack of vaccination in these countries is the primary cause of this statistic. Also known as rubella, measles can become ubiquitous during periods of mass displacement. It is an infectious disease that results in high fever and poses challenges to the respiratory system. The current lack of vaccination and immunization schemes is exacerbating the problem created by this disease.
    The creation of The Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan in 2012 outlines the solution to the problems caused by measles. This initiative is a 10-year plan being conducted by the WHO and World Health Assembly to ensure the control and elimination of Measles.

Overall, it is vital to combat diseases in war-torn countries to counter the risk of them becoming epidemics. Due to the close proximity in which people live in these zones, diseases and infections can quickly become widespread. However, the current collaborative efforts being undertaken by nonprofit and international organizations will go a long way in alleviating the problem.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr


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