BEIRUT — Lebanon's caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad said Wednesday that Lebanon's recent cholera outbreak "is under control."
In a press conference, Abiad said 500,000 people have been vaccinated since a 3-week vaccination campaign began on Nov. 12. Abiad also announced that a second phase of the campaign will start soon and target 295 localities, "in addition to some refugee camps."
Lebanon has recorded 653 confirmed cholera cases and 23 deaths to date.
Meanwhile, the National Litani River Authority reported that the upper basin of the river in southern Lebanon is still contaminated with cholera at several points. These are located in the Bekaa, and originate "downstream from camps for displaced Syrians, sewage outlets or hospitals," the agency said in a report published Wednesday.
Abiad stressed that "the main areas targeted in the vaccination campaign will be Tripoli, Dinniyeh, the remaining villages of Akkar (all located in northern Lebanon), Baalbeck (Bekaa Valley) and localities along the Litani River.
Nearly 900,000 people will be targeted by this campaign, the minister added.
40 percent of samples contaminated
The Litani National Authority said Wednesday it detected the presence of cholera in the upper basin of the river, based on ten samples in different locations.
In a report, the office said that four out of ten samples were found to be contaminated, all in the Bekaa. These samples were collected at the bridge of Dalhamiyeh, from a source in Chtaura; in the river of Berdawneh in Zahleh; and in Marj, near a camp of Syrian refugees.
The control operation was conducted jointly with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), since early December.
The cholera contamination of the Litani River is due to the discharge of untreated wastewater," the report added.
Lebanon's recent cholera outbreak began in early October in a refugee camp in Akkar and is likely linked to the cholera outbreak in neighboring Syria.