GENEVA, 6 January 2017 – 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 3 or 4 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 2 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 reiterate its call to parties to the conflict to meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilian infrastructure, including water facilities.