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UNICEF: Summer heat adds to perils facing children of Syria

Providing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services is crucial

AMMAN, 21 June 2013 – Soaring summer temperatures, overcrowding and worsening hygiene are the latest threats facing some 4 million children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, UNICEF said today.

“Without enough safe water and sanitation, the likelihood that children in Syria and those living as refugees around the region will fall sick with diarrhoea and other diseases is certain to rise,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

In Syria, the availability of safe water is one third what it was before the crisis. Of the more than 4.25 million displaced Syrians, many live in overcrowded shelters with insufficient access to toilets and showers. Sewage systems are damaged or overwhelmed by the increase in displaced populations.

In refugee camps like Domiz in Iraq – expanded to accommodate around 25,000 people but now hosting almost twice that number – conditions are just as severe. And in Jordan’s Za’atari camp, aid agencies are struggling to meet the needs of what is now the world’s second biggest refugee camp, housing at least 120,000 people.

In Lebanon, more than half a million refugees are scattered in host communities and in informal tented settlements, placing increased pressure on existing water and sanitation services. Multiple families often share small apartments or live in makeshift settlements that lack access to safe water, basic toilets and waste collection. Women and children often have to walk long distances to collect water that in many cases may be unfit for drinking. 

As the escalating conflict triggers ever more population movement, UNICEF has accelerated efforts to provide sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, reaching almost 9 million people since the beginning of the year.

In Syria itself, new generators and repaired systems are keeping water networks and purification plants operational even in areas where heavy fighting has occurred.

In Jordan, UNICEF and partners truck in more than 4 million litres of water a day to Za’atari while rehabilitating water infrastructure and networks in nearby towns. Water infrastructure is also being installed in a new refugee camp in Azraq.

In Lebanon, so far this year, UNICEF and partners operating in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector distributed nearly 100,000 hygiene kits, including shampoo, soap and detergent – benefiting more than 430,000 people. 

Funding constraints remain an issue. “Providing water, sanitation and hygiene services to those affected by this crisis is our most costly operation – but one of the least funded,” Calivis said.

UNICEF needs more than $200 million for its water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq until the end of the year. Nearly half way through the year, UNICEF remains $124 million short of this target.



UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org/mena.

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For further information, please contact:

Simon Ingram, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, singram@unicef.org, +962-79590-4740

Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, jtouma@unicef.org, +962-79-867-4628

Jaya Murthy, UNICEF Iraq, jmurthy@unicef.org, +964-780-196-4524

Soha Boustani, UNICEF Lebanon, sboustani@unicef.org, +961-70-931-700

Alma Hassoun, UNICEF Syria, ahassoun@unicef.org, +963-958-558-899

Marc Vergara, UNICEF Jordan, mvergara@unicef.org, +962-79-576-0964




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