Poisoning outbreak in Wadi Barada, amidst contradiction of government officials’ statements over its causes

Barada River runs through the town of Ashrafiyat al-Wadi in Wadi Barada area of Rif Dimashq (Ashrafiyat al-Wadi Archives)

Barada River runs through the town of Ashrafiyat al-Wadi in Wadi Barada area of Rif Dimashq (Ashrafiyat al-Wadi Archives)


 Several people were reportedly poisoned after drinking tainted water in Syria’s Wadi Barada area in the province of Rif Dimashq. The poisoning crisis has worsened recently with the registration of new cases among the residents of the villages of Ashrafiyat al-Wadi and Jadida al-Shaibani, amid mutual accusations between the water corporation and the health directorate.

 Some residents of Wadi Barada said in an interview conducted by Enab Baladi on Monday, 6 January, that poisoning cases have increased in the villages of Ashrafiyat al-Wadi and Jadida al-Shaibani due to consumption of contaminated drinking water.

 The citizens highlighted that the contradiction between governmental institutions over the causes of the poisoning cases is too controversial in the region.

Poisoning cases were recognized a week ago, their symptoms were reflected in the severe stomach aches (inflammation of the intestines), vomiting, and diarrhea.

 Medical reports of the Health Directorate of Rif Dimashq confirmed that the reason behind the poisoning cases is the contamination of drinking water, according to the results of laboratory analyses published by the official media outlets. On the other hand, the water corporation denies these claims.

 The state-run newspaper Tishreen reported that the Health Directorate of Rif Dimashq documented 300 poisoning cases in the two villages until last Sunday, 5 January.

However, citizens interviewed by Enab Baladi said that the number of poisoning cases is far higher than that, which was seen by posts published on social media websites including Facebook.

 The citizens held the water corporation responsible for poisoning cases, demanding the provision of water supply to the towns and villages in Wadi Barada regions from the nearby Ein-al-Fejeh springs instead of wells.

 The Ein-al-Fejeh spring is considered one of the biggest springs in Syria that supplies Damascus and its outskirts with drinking water.

 Contradiction in the statements of governmental institutions regarding the causes of poisoning

 Yassin Na`nous, the head of Rif Dimashq’s Health Directorate, told the state-run newspaper Tishreen on 5 January after “testing some water samples taken from different sites, the test results show their contamination in the first days. Then, chlorine was added to drinking water supply to disinfect it and kill germs. On Friday, 3 January, new water samples were taken.”

Na`nous pointed out that the medical teams (including doctors, nurses and others) ambulances, mobile clinics in the region are at full medical alert.

 On the other hand, the Director of the Water Corporation in Damascus and its countryside, Mazen al-Shibli, denied during an interview with Syrian state Television and official newspapers, that the drinking water is contaminated, and attributed the reasons to bakeries, some food items and to power outages, despite the assurances of the health directorate.

According to al-Baath media run-state website, Na`nous denied that poisoning was caused by eating contaminated food items.

 Furthermore, Moayad al-Rifai, the director of bakeries, disclaimed that the bread caused the poisoning because the bread is exposed to very high temperatures that range between 400 to 600 degrees Celsius. In response to al-Shibli, al-Rifai said that the well in the bakery has been closed for six months and the water tanks of the bakeries are free from pollution.

In addition, the Head of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection in Rif Dimashq, louay Salem said that food items have nothing to do with poisoning, according to Tishreen newspaper.

The crisis forced governmental institution to act by emptying the water tanks of all schools and bakeries in the villages, providing water disinfectant and safe water from Ein-al-Fejeh springs as well as conducting government visits to schools and health centers accompanied by official media outlets.

The villages of Wadi Barada in the northwestern countryside of Damascus have been under the control of the Syrian regime since the beginning of 2017.

 The Barada River runs through the Zabadani region which is considered a tourist destination filled with fresh groundwater. The Barada River serves as the main water supply for millions of Syrians around the capital.

The villages of Wadi Barada (14 villages) lack access to safe drinking water despite the existence of the largest springs in the region including Ein-al-Fejeh Spring and Barada Spring following procedures by the water corporation represented in diverting all the water to the center of the city of Damascus through water channels. As a result, most of the villages are left to be fed through underground wells.



















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