It may not be infighting or military setbacks that ultimately result in ISIS’s demise. Fighters of the terrorist organization have been succumbing to leishmaniasis, a flesh-eating parasitic skin disease, in recent days.
The anti-ISIS activist group, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently—which monitors the situation on the ground in the terrorist group’s Syrian stronghold in Raqqa—said that around 3,000 people are suffering from the disease, including ISIS members.
Leishmaniasis, also called the “Rose of Jericho,” is caused by a parasite primarily spread via the bite of certain types of sandflies, and it affects millions of people each year across the world. The disease, which causes skin lesions, is usually easy to treat. However, it can be fatal if it goes untreated.
The disease appears as red sores on the skin that eat away at the flesh. The most common form is cutaneous leishmaniasis, but visceral leishmaniasis is a more severe form of the disease in which parasites have spread to vital organs.
But since ISIS, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has blocked outside medical services from operating inside of the territory it’s captured, medical treatment isn’t really an option for those affected by the disease. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and many other humanitarian aid organizations have been forced to leave ISIS-held areas due to fighting and kidnappings.
Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently said the prevalence of the disease has been exacerbated due to pollution and poor hygiene in refugee camps and ISIS areas. In past updates, the activist group said there’s mounds of garbage around Raqqa, which could attract sandflies.
The Syrian government had stepped up efforts to fight the disease but those ultimately collapsed after the country’s civil war in 2011.
The situation in Syria, as the country enters its fifth year of civil war, has been termed as an “unacceptable humanitarian failure” by Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of MSF. In January 2014, when ISIS abducted 13 MSF workers, the humanitarian aid organization was forced to leave ISIS areas.
“Local leaders of the newly renamed IS have repeatedly requested that MSF resume its medical assistance in their areas of control,” Liu said in March. “But we cannot consider this, given that IS targeted our teams and broke an agreement they had committed to. Necessary guarantees have not been obtained from IS leadership that MSF patients and staff will not be taken or harmed.”
Highlighting the perilous situation for aid workers in Syria, two Red Crescent workers were killed last week in northern Idlib Province in Syria while they were trying to retrieve dead bodies and prepare shelters for locals attempting to flee the city amid heavy fighting, the Red Cross said.