Access to water is critical for daily life and in the adoption of best hygiene practices during COVID-19 in Syria

By Muhannad Hadi, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis and Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

22 March 2021

Joint Statement on World Water Day


AMMAN, 22 March 2021 – “Access to water in Syria continues to be critical for daily life amid dire humanitarian circumstances, and for adopting hygiene practices that can, along with mask-wearing and physical distancing, limit the spread of COVID-19. Beyond its actual cost, water has enormous value for households, agriculture, health, education, culture, economics and the integrity of the natural environment. As we mark World Water Day, we call on all parties to ensure uninterrupted, sufficient and affordable access to safe water.


“Access to safe water is a key element of the health of people, especially during current efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventing safe access to water during these times can endanger the lives of children and families.


“After ten years of conflict in Syria, over 90 per cent of the population live under the poverty line. This affects the ability of families to access water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and supplies and increases their reliance on continuous humanitarian aid.


“Despite humanitarian efforts, internally displaced populations in Syria, living in formal camps and informal settlement are at high risk as they generally lack adequate and reliable access to water and sanitation facilities and services. Women and girls’ access to water and sanitation continue to expose them to risks of gender-based violence, in particular because of shared bathrooms, lack of proper locks or doors and insufficient lighting at night. Water, sanitation and hygiene services are stretched to their limits in overpopulated communities. Returnees are facing difficulties accessing water and sanitation in their areas of origin.


“Lack of electricity remains the key challenge, especially operating water systems relying on alternate secondary generators as their main source of energy. This is consuming more than 35 per cent of the WASH sector required funds. Reliable and consistent modalities to supply electricity must be prioritized.


“As we mark World Water Day today, and last week the grim 10th anniversary of the conflict in Syria, humanitarian partners need to ensure that no one is left behind. Special attention must be paid to marginalized and vulnerable groups, including women and girls and people with disabilities, who are not frequently enough at the centre of public policies related to water and sanitation.


“All parties to the conflict must protect civilian infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities and personnel across Syria. Access to water during this pandemic is more critical than ever.”

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