Why is Lebanon facing an outbreak today?
Cholera—like many infectious diseases—is preventable when sanitary and public health measures are in place. Caused by a water-borne bacterial infection, cholera is transmitted through contaminated food or water, or through contact with fecal matter or vomit from infected people. However, the disease is unlikely to rapidly spread in places where there is adequate water treatment and proper sanitation.
In Lebanon, these conditions have been compromised as the country faces one of the worst economic crises in the world, creating an ideal environment for the disease to spread. The water, waste management and electricity networks in Lebanon are old and not properly maintained, causing them to leak. The resulting inadequate water supply and water treatment infrastructure allow waterborne disease to surface, including cholera and Hepatitis A (which was recorded in Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, in June 2022). These outbreaks are a symptom of a collapsed water system, which has been impacted by compounded crises in the country.
Why is the cholera outbreak in Lebanon so worrying?
Access to vaccines and clean water is essential to curb a cholera outbreak. The current economic and energy crisis—which has seen increasingly frequent electricity cuts—in Lebanon has further strained access to safe water and sanitation services. The water pumps that supply water to specific areas recently stopped working due to multiple power outages, meaning people have to rely even more often on unregulated private water trucking companies for their water supply.
Impacted by the financial crisis people who are unable to afford private water trucking supply—particularly those in remote and neglected areas— are relying on polluted rivers and ponds to cover their water needs. Already old, wastewater networks, are not being maintained leading them to leak into camps and households.