Water cuts leave four million people at risk in Syria

GENEVA, Jan. 6, 2017 /CNW/ - Millions of people in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from running water for two weeks. Fighting in and around Wadi Barada, on the outskirts of Damascus where the two primary water sources are located, has resulted in damages to the water network.

Water rationing was immediately introduced allowing some neighbourhoods to obtain water for up to two hours every three or four days. Many residents in the city have resorted to alternative sources such as buying water from private vendors, where prices and water quality are unregulated.

There is a major concern of the risk of waterborne diseases among children. In many areas, families are paying up to US$12 to buy 1,000 litres from private companies.

Children bear the brunt of collecting water for their family. A UNICEF team who visited several Damascus schools yesterday said that most children they met walk at least half an hour to the nearest mosque or public water point to collect water. It takes children up to two hours waiting in line just to fetch water in freezing temperatures.

As part of its wider water, sanitation and hygiene response in Syria, UNICEF has rehabilitated and equipped 120 wells in and around Damascus that cover up to one-third of daily water needs in the city. Since 22 December, those wells have been the only source of water for the entire city of Damascus.

UNICEF has already provided generator sets and spare parts and is delivering 15,000 litres of fuel daily to increase water production and pumping to a maximum of 200,000 cubic metrics per day to reach up to 3.5 million people with drinking water.

This week, daily water trucking has resumed to 50 schools in Damascus, providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for up to 30,000 children.

These are all temporary solutions and not sustainable. UNICEF is standing ready to support repair work of the damaged water source and network as soon as access is granted.

UNICEF reiterates its call to parties to the conflict to meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilian infrastructure, including water facilities.

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.


For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866, 647-500-4320 (mobile), scarmichael@unicef.ca


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