Conflict and wars have continued to bend the region out of shape in 2016, with health infrastructure in Syria and Yemen continuing to crumble and fall, and the exodus of people out of dangerous zones affecting neighboring populations. The following are some of the most critical situations borne out of the flow of people as a result of infighting in 2016.
Besides the human cost of the war in Syria, the ecological and environmental impact has, no doubt, been huge. For example, earlier this month, researchers based in the US and Canada have shown how mass migrations are changing the country’s hydrological landscape.
The flight of Syrian refugees since 2013 has dramatically changed water-use patterns and led to an increased water flow into Jordan through the Yarmouk River. In the absence of direct measurement data from Syria, the scientists had turned to remote sensing techniques, combining spatial and statistical analyses of satellite imagery with water balance calculations to estimate the changes in irrigation patterns and reservoir usage in southwest Syria. While the end of a regional drought is partly responsible for the increased flow of the Yarmouk, the analysis showed that decreased water use in the Syrian part of the river basin accounts for roughly half of the 340% increase in transboundary flow.
In a way, the war in Syria carried some good for Jordan – at least in terms of water supply.
War and migration had once led to outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as visceral leishmaniasis, across the region, originating from Sudan and South Sudan. And new research is warning that this could happen again. Visceral leishmaniasis is endemic in Sudan and South Sudan, where the climate allows sandflies to thrive, and poor health systems compound the problem.
Researchers from the US and Saudi Arabia have presented new evidence suggesting that conflict, and the chronic malnutrition and displacement that follow, interrupt the cycle of immunity and allow a disease like visceral leishmaniasis to flourish. Gloomily, the scientists say they expect another outbreak.
Not far off, in Aleppo, the scene of much violence and suffering, an outbreak of another form of leishmaniasis has taken place. The Aleppo boil, which is caused by a parasite in the bloodstream and transmitted through the bites of sandflies, has been reported to have infected hundreds of thousands across the Middle East, especially across refugee camps. The disease causes disfiguring lesions on the body and the numbers are bad, according to scientists.
Until recently, the disease was contained to areas around Aleppo and Damascus, but this changed with the continuous disruption of insecticide control, poor water and sanitation services in conflict zones.