Children have improved access to safe drinking water in Aleppo thanks to UNICEF
Protecting children’s health and education while restoring critical services
Aleppo, Syria, 22 March 2020- Years of violence have taken a toll on water infrastructure across the city of Aleppo, often used as a weapon of war, including major water pumping stations. This caused a lack of running water at homes, forcing families to rely on alternative water sources, including expensive water-trucking, or local wells and public water points.
Children especially carried the brunt of fetching water for their families from water points, forced to walk long distances under the scorching sun or in dropping temperatures, stand in long queues for several hours and carry jerrycans of water too heavy for their small bodies.
“My back used to hurt all the time,” recalls Ahmad, 11, who, together with his siblings, would spend the day going back and forth between their house and the water point, to collect water for their family.
"I couldn’t feel my hands while carrying the heavy jerrycans back home"
The children only went to school intermittently, having to take turns waiting in queues to collect water. Their daily task also took way time they could spend doing homework, playing or resting.
Back in 2014, Ahmad, his six siblings and parents fled their home in eastern Aleppo as violence escalated and spent over 3 years on the move. Following respite in violence, they returned to Al-Halawaniyeh neighbourhoods amidst a severe lack of services, including lack of running water.
Together with partners, UNICEF just concluded the first phase of a critical project to restore water and sewage networks in the city of Aleppo, benefitting over 700,000 people. This includes the rehabilitation of major water pipelines to improve the quality and increase the quantity of water reaching people’s homes in the eastern neighbourhoods of the city. The project also covers the replacement of sewage pipelines to eliminate underground water contamination.
“The main objective of the project is to protect children’s health and education while restoring critical services,” says Maher Ghafari, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) officer in Aleppo. “Water is a right that children should have without having to sacrifice their education or wellbeing,” he adds.
"Now we can just open the tap and have running water at home. We don’t miss out on school and have time to play,"