UNICEF brings water back to villages in north rural Homs, Syria

"My mother wouldn’t let my younger siblings play outside so that we didn’t use too much water showering and doing laundry.”

UNICEF
woman filling jerrycan with water and children gathered around her
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai

26 August 2019

“Half of our apartment was gone. Even the bathroom, the water tanks and pipes were all destroyed or looted.” That’s how Itisam, a mother of four, found her home in Teir Maleh village when she returned after two years of displacement.

But it wasn’t only Itisam who found her home destroyed and had lost all access to water; Teir Maleh was just one of 10 battle-ravaged villages in north rural Homs that suffered serious damage to their water infrastructure during the conflict, leaving nearly 50,000 people with no access to safe drinking water for four years.

Instead of saving up money to repair the house, Itisam had to spend her already modest resources on buying costly trucked water from private distributors, “and we needed to prioritize drinking and cut down on washing and hygiene,” she recalls.

woman filling water from tap
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai
Bayan, 14 years, fills water for cooking in her war-damaged home in Teir Maleh village.

Among returnees to the village was also Bayan, 14, and her family. Although the fighting had caused serious structural damage to their home, they had to take the risk of staying there for lack of other affordable options. Like Itisam, Bayan’s family had to rely on unsafe water from local wells and costly private trucks, “Water was in short supply and of poor quality. It gave me kidney problems,” she recalls,

“It also meant we had to ration water to the extreme. My mother wouldn’t let my younger siblings play outside so that we didn’t use too much water showering and doing laundry.”

Bayan
boy standing next to water tank
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai
A local shallow well and water trucks in Teir Maleh.

But this summer, thanks to the UNICEF-supported rehabilitation of the water pumping station and two of its main water pipelines, these families have more access to safe water. With UNICEF’s assistance, the provision of safe-drinking water in Teir Maleh and other nine war-ravaged villages increased from zero to 50 litres per person per day.

“We no longer need to buy any water; there is running water that is sufficient and safe,” says Itisam as she and her children fill some jerrycans from a neighbor’s water spout. She now can save up money to buy a new water tank for her own home.

“It’s much better now.  We can comfortably drink, wash and do our chores as needed, and we have no concerns for our health.”

Bayan
man in a control room
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai
UNICEF-provided electric panels at Ghanto water pumping station.
water pump station
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai
UNICEF-provided power generator at Ghanto water pumping station.
water pump station
UNICEF/Syria2019/Malek Sibai
UNICEF-provided water pumps at Ghanto water pumping station.

Funded by the Government of Kuwait, the water station’s rehabilitation included the provision of water pumps, electrical panels, a power generator and a water sterilization system. In addition, with thanks to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), two main water pipelines were repaired with high-density polyethylene pipes.