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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Syrian students spread the word about safe water

© UNICEF/SYR09360/Rob Sixsmith
A young Syrian student shows off her European Union and UNICEF World Water Day flyers.

By Rob Sixsmith

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 29 March 2010 – The message of World Water Day, celebrated here and around the globe last week, is more pressing than ever in the northern regions of the Syrian Arab Republic, which have received exceptionally low levels of rainfall in recent years.

“In the past few years, the growing population, and the fact that Syria has faced a severe lack of rain, has combined with increased economic activity and agriculture,” said Minister of Housing and Construction Omar Ghalawanji. “This has resulted in the challenge of water scarcity – something we need to address collectively.”

Water-quality challenges

In Syria, children like Amani, 9, and her ‘water-friendly’ team, took to the streets to raise awareness about World Water Day. This year’s theme, ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World,’ focused on water-quality challenges and solutions, as water systems have become increasingly polluted with human, agricultural and industrial waste.

© UNICEF/SYR09456/Rob Sixsmith
Students ready their materials for World Water Day in Syria.

“I wanted to talk to the people so they can learn how to save water,” Amani said.

Amani attends Hala Bent Khouiled School, which is one of the 4,000 schools across the country that are participating in a water education initiative. UNICEF partnered with the European Union and the Ministry of Housing to support the children, who in turn are providing an inexhaustible supply of enthusiasm.

“There were lots of people around, and we were kids who knew about water saving,” Amani said, describing a recent awareness-raising event. “And they’re adults who don’t know, so they get shy and definitely read the flyer and listen.”

Every drop counts

Compared to the environmental challenges facing Syria, such activities can seem like a drop in the ocean, but the young participants are learning that every drop counts.

“We always teach the students about how they can change things, how they can change the world around them,” said Amani’s teacher, Fadia Raya. “Up until now, this was just theoretical. But today, they realize they can actually do something about it.”

For its part, the Syrian Government marked World Water Day by inaugurating a range of new initiatives aimed at combating water scarcity in the country.



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