Lebanon on Monday received its first vaccines to combat a worsening cholera outbreak together with sharply worded criticism of the crisis-hit country’s crumbling public health infrastructure from donor nation France.
The health ministry said cases of cholera, a disease typically spread through contaminated water, food or sewage, stood at 1,447, with 17 deaths, since the first were recorded in the country a month ago.
Lebanon had been cholera-free since 1993, but its public services are suffering under a brutal economic crisis now in its fourth year, while infighting among the country’s faction-riven elite has paralysed its political institutions.
The outbreak has reached Beirut, but authorities said most cases remain concentrated where it started in the northern town of Bebnine, where health authorities have set up an emergency field hospital.
Health Minister Firass Abiad told reporters in the capital as he announced the first batch, that the vaccines would play “an essential role” in limiting the disease’s spread. He did not specify how many more were on the way.
The Ambassador of France, Anne Grillo, said the delivery comprised more than 13,000 doses donated by her government, while urging Lebanese authorities to address the outbreak’s causes.
“The origins of this epidemic, in which public health is at stake, must also be treated.
The outbreak was “a new and worrying illustration of the critical decline in public provision of access to water and sanitary services in Lebanon.’’
The World Health Organization has linked cholera’s comeback in Lebanon to an outbreak in neighbouring Syria, to where it had spread from Afghanistan via Iran and Iraq. (Reuters/NAN)