ISIS Meets Its Most Formidable Foe: Microscopic Parasites
Islamic State militants in Raqqa, the group’s operations center in Syria, are succumbing to the flesh-eating parasitic disease leishmaniasis.
According to the anti-IS activist group “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” the disease has affected around 3,000 people in the jihadis’ territory.
Leishmaniasis causes skin lesions, which are generally easily treatable. But if left alone, the disease eats away at the patient’s flesh and can be ultimately fatal.
The jihadi militants have blocked outside medical services’ access to their territory, leaving those who live their untreated and vulnerable. (RELATED: ISIS Has Too Many Sad Single Jihadis)
The disease is transmitted by infected sandflies, and generally prevented in susceptible areas by the use of insecticidal bed nets while sleeping. Though the World Health Organization recognizes leishmaniasis as endemic to the Middle East, incidents were slowly decreasing in Syria as a result of an aggressive government health policy before that country’s civil war broke out in 2011.
Various global health agencies have reported a spike in cases since the war began, especially among refugees from the violence, whose immune systems are compromised by stress and instability.
Reports suggest that poor hygiene, both in refugee camps and in IS-held territory, has exacerbated incidence of the disease.
In and around Raqqa, built-up garbage has attracted more disease-bearing sandflies, which has accelerated the spread of the disease.
According to the same anti-IS group, 42 children in Raqqa died last year of thalassemia, a blood disease that is manageable but also requires close medical attention.
Meanwhile, 2 medical workers with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (the local Red Cross affiliate) died in Syria last week, among the Islamist rebel takeover of the northwestern city of Idlib. They died while “retrieving dead bodies” and “preparing shelters for people fleeing the fighting.”
Their death brings the body count of Red Crescent workers in Syria since the war began to 50.
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