A disease endemic to Syria, that was mostly kept in check by the country’s healthcare system until civil war ravaged the country, has spread into neighbouring countries, including Iraq, as people flee the conflict.
Although exact figures are unknown, there have been cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis – also known as ‘Aleppo Boil’ or ‘Aleppo Evil’– reported in refugee camps in central and southern Iraq. The parasitic infection creates open sores, which can lead to scarring and disfiguration, and is spread through sand-fly bites. The open sores can lead to secondary infections.
With an incubation period of up to six months, civilians fleeing the conflict in Syria and seeking refuge in Iraq may have arrived unaware they are carriers of the parasite. In the camps, which are crowded and often lack access to clean water, poor health care provision is exacerbating the problem.
Research was carried out by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom. Dr Waleed al-Salem told The Daily Mail, “It’s a very bad situation. The disease has spread dramatically in Syria, but also into countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and even into southern Europe with refugees coming in.
“There are thousands of cases in the region but it is still underestimated because no one can count the exact number of people affected.
“When people are bitten by a sand-fly – which are tiny and smaller than a mosquito – it can take anything between two to six months to have the infection.”