The Plague Spreaders

August 4, 2006

In News

Local doctors warned on Saturday of an impending health crisis in southern Lebanese towns and villages, as overcrowding, food and water shortages lead to poor hygiene and a rise in infectious diseases.

Dr Hussein Safa and Dr Ziad Bchara from the Khiam Centre, a rehabilitation centre for former detainees in southern Lebanon, said that diseases were on the rise due primarily to a lack of clean water.

“Many of the displaced children or those stuck in their villages have lice, typhoid, acute diarrhoea, scabies or bronchitis. Old people have ulcers, high blood pressure and have difficulty in urinating,” said Safa.

Many southern border towns including Rmeich, Dibl, Ain Ibl and Qozah face severe shortages of drinking water. Some people have resorted to drinking from ponds used by livestock, which are often contaminated with bacteria.

With an influx of displaced families from neighbouring areas, the population in Rmeich has risen from 5,000 to 25,000 people.

According to Issam el-Hajj, a resident of Rmeich who was displaced to Beirut a few days ago, the town was ill-equipped to deal with such a large number of people.

He estimated that each house hosted over 50 people while water was in scarce supply. Residents had run out of diesel to run the generator to draw water from the well just outside the village.

“Due to the lack of water, the epidemic of scabies is spreading like wild-fire,” he said.

Aside from infectious diseases, Dr Safa said that many of the displaced also had psychological problems.

“Many tremble uncontrollably; some are hysterical or cannot concentrate for longer periods of time and some children urinate too frequently. All of that is due to the bombings by the Israelis,” he said.
The Khiam centre was originally set up in 2000 to rehabilitate former detainees of Israeli prisons. Since the recent hostilities started on 12 July, the centre has provided help to many displaced families, including organising plays and performances for displaced children.