Concerns about Cholera in an Occupied Ukrainian City

LONDON -- Due to the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, Mariupol is at risk of developing cholera.

Concerns about Cholera in an Occupied Ukrainian City

LONDON -- Due to the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, Mariupol is at risk of developing cholera. Health agencies and city officials warn.

"The risk of cholera in Mariupol is very high," Petro Andriushchenko told ABC News. He was an advisor to Mariupol’s mayor. He said that there was no way to estimate the number of cases because the municipality did not have access to the occupants during the Russian occupation.

Despite the increased warnings, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Bouchenko stated on Telegram last month, that the city is at risk of an infectious catastrophe due to water supply problems. More than 10,000 people could die before the year ends.

According to an April report by the World Health Organization's Health Cluster Ukraine agency, there is a high risk of outbreak due to the state of water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure.

According to the report, transmission will increase with warmer spring and summer weather.

"The weather is hot. There are still bodies in the streets, especially beneath the rubble of the residential buildings. It is difficult to walk through some blocks due to the smell of rotten flesh. "There was no rain for some time, and it is becoming hotter," Mariupol resident, who declined to be identified due to security concerns, told ABC News.

Andriushchenko also wrote that the hospital staffing situation is "catastrophic" on Wednesday's Telegram channel. He said, "Visual demonstrations of complete paralysis... In this state medical care any infectious disease becomes a deadly epidemic."

According to Andryushchenko, swimming in the Azov sea has been prohibited as a way to stop the spread of the disease. He said that Russian occupation authorities began to quarantine Mariupol's captured city.

Dorit Nitzan is the WHO's Ukraine incident management and told reporters last month that the international agency's partners in Mariupol were observing "actual swamps" in the streets.

At a press conference in Kyiv, Nitzan stated that sewage water and drinking water are becoming mixed. She stated that this is a major hazard for many types of infections, including cholera.

Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, stated that while accessing Mariupol is a problem, she was looking for partners on the ground to help her.

Harris said that the international organization "has provided guidance to Ukraine on prevention, preparedness and detection -- including in wastewater monitoring -- [and] standards for care and case management" in order to reduce the spread of the disease.

The April report warns that the city's residents have been forced to drink untreated water from the rivers and lakes due to water shortages. It also states that Ukraine was the last European country to declare an epidemic of cholera, with 33 cases reported in Mariupol in 2011.

"There is no water supply, it is delivered by trucks and people are still waiting in lines to fill their bottles," a Mariupol resident told ABC News. He also said that there is no information available about any possible cases.

The WHO has also made it possible for Ukraine to use cholera vaccines. It is currently working with the Ministry of Health in order to distribute risk communication materials that will help people "how to protect themselves, both on prevention but also treatment, and what to do at home."

Harris stated that the international organization has also provided medical supplies, including WHO Cholera kits with rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs)).

According to reports, the city was home to more than 400,000 people before Russia invaded Ukraine. Although there are not accurate statistics about the current population, Ukrainian officials estimate that 100,000-150,000 people still live in the occupied city. Many are hiding in basements or bomb shelters.

Harris emphasized the psychological crisis of those who remained in the city, and the potential contribution to an outbreak.

She said that the fact that people are constantly on the move and that they often live close to each other, as well as the fact that they sometimes have to huddle in basements or in bomb shelters has had a devastating effect on their immune system, weakening it.

She explained that even a mild infection is not a serious one for you and me.

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