Syria

Bringing life back to water-deprived villages in Dara’a

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© UNICEF/Syria/2021/Omar Malas

UNICEF supports people’s access to water in rural Dara’a through water wells rehabilitation

By Sandra Awad and Lina Alqassab

Syria, rural Dara’a, Lajat, August 2021 – “This well brought life back to our land, so I’m treating it like a precious treasure!” says Yousef Al-Tabeesh, head of Al-Sateh village in Dara’a governorate, southwest Syria, as he looks at the village’s biggest water resource. “Since its rehabilitation I’ve volunteered to operate it every morning and clean its solar panels every week.”

The village that hosts a UNICEF-rehabilitated well, Sateh Zahnan, lies in Lajat area, a basalt plateau in north rural Dara’a that had lost most of its population due to water shortage, but since the well’s rehabilitation last June, the population has tripled.

“Now, the place is busy with people rehabilitating their homes to resettle after water scarcity forced them to leave. Where there is water, life flourishes!” continues Yousef as his face shines with a big smile.

Prior to rehabilitation, infrastructural damage, coupled with the severe lack of electricity supply, meant that the well’s pump was out of order most of the time. “The situation was dire,” recalls Mr. Al-Tabeesh. “On the rare days when the pump worked, families, having been deprived, would fight to direct water flow to their homes, which jeopardized social ties in the community.”

Sheep herding is the main source of income in the community of Lajat. To survive with their herds, families used to have to choose between buying costly water from private providers, drinking water from small polluted wells they may find, or moving to other places seeking a better water supply.

In June 2021, UNICEF provided the well with electrical and mechanical equipment and installed a solar power supply system, ending its dependency on the poor electricity.

Among returnees, was the family of Shatwa, 60 years old, who rehabilitated their home and a little land nearby to plant their fruit and vegetables. “Amid this insane rise in food prices, we are very lucky to be able to produce our own,” says Ibrahim, Shatwa’s son, while watering the plants.

“My grandchildren can drink whenever they are thirsty, and we can cook and make coffee for our guests without worrying about a water shortage,” adds Shatwa.

Water shortage can deprive children from fully living their childhood which was the case for Balkis, 7, Shatwa’s granddaughter. “My mother wouldn’t allow me to play with my cousins in the fields as we didn’t have enough water to bathe, but now I can play whenever I want!”

Sateh Zahnan is one of six wells UNICEF has rehabilitated in Lajat this year. With thanks to a generous funding from Germany, the six rehabilitation projects have brought water back to 16,000 people in the area. “We are in the process of rehabilitating other 14 wells reaching additional 85,000 people,” says Ameen, UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilitator. “We can already see the huge impact on the lives of residents. Our reward is seeing them smile.”