Charting the way forward for Syria’s water, sanitation and hygiene sector
AMMAN/DAMASCUS, July 2013 – Finding ways to address Syria’s deepening water and sanitation crisis was at the centre of an unusual meeting of more than 150 experts, senior government officials, and representatives from United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations in Damascus recently.
Participants at the gathering late June heard governorate representatives from Syria’s Water Authority describe the devastating impact that more than two years of fighting have had on the nation’s water supply and sewage systems.
In half of the country’s 14 governorates, water and sanitation infrastructure is deemed to be at high risk. Buildings and facilities have been heavily damaged or looted. Large-scale water development projects have been put on hold. Many employees have fled or are unable to report to work because of insecurity.
The situation of some 400,000 people – representing over 10 per cent of the 4.25 million internally displaced by the conflict – living in collective shelters is particularly dire. Many lack basic services and the shortage of water and sanitation facilities has led to outbreaks of hygiene-related diseases and skin conditions.
“This meeting was an important step towards boosting the water and sanitation response, which is of vital importance to the whole country,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Syria.
The workshop made a series of recommendations designed to strengthen the production and supply of safe drinking water, deal with overflowing sewage systems and improve garbage collection.
Particular focus is to be given to the needs in shelters for displaced persons, as well as hospitals and schools.
Humanitarian actors in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector have made significant achievements so far this year, including the delivery of 2 million litres of chlorine to water treatment plants – enough to treat water for up to 10 million people – the distribution of hygiene and sanitary kits for nearly 1 million people, and the delivery by UNICEF of 68 generators of which 30 are already operational.
Funding for the sector remains a significant constraint. Of $68.4 million needed for 2013, only $15.6 million have been received, leaving a funding gap of more than 75 per cent.