In destroyed Aleppo, nearly 2 million people struggle to have clean water

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Hassan*, 15, is one of an estimated 1.8 million people who were left without running water in Aleppo for nearly a month, as ISIS militants, in control of the main water source to the city, had reportedly shut down the water supply.

The young boy fills two jerry cans from a public well, and heads back home to his mother and sister in Aleppo. He will do the trip several times to fulfill their water needs.

“Every other day, I do four or five round trips to the nearest public well, to fill my jerry cans and provide my family with about 150 liters of water. The task takes about two hours,” says Hassan, who speaks about water running in the taps as a “dream”.

Hassan, who moved from then rebel-held East to government-controlled West Aleppo three years ago, had managed to find a job in a local store to support his 7-year old sister Hanine and their mother Suad* after his father passed away from a heart-attack.

Though Hassan is back at school now in West Aleppo, his days are unlike any other teenager’s, as he has to worry about the lack of water instead of focusing on his homework. “I get tired, but feel happy to be able to help my mother and sister,” he says.

Providing clean and safe water

All of Aleppo is now controlled by the government of Syria. But the eastern part of the city, which sustained a long military offensive and heavy damages, still has not recovered from its near-entire destruction.

People who have returned to their homes have seen water shortages add to their woes. They now rely on public wells and trucks delivering water to certain points.

To respond to this situation, Oxfam has rehabilitated seven wells which had been equipped with new hardware a year ago by its team. This activity was part of an inter-agency effort to maintain at least 122 wells and provide clean water to Aleppo’s nearly 2 million residents.

Oxfam has also installed four tanks with a capacity of 45,000 each, and over 117 household water tanks (of 500 and 1000 liters capacity) to increase the storage capacity of water in areas hosting a large number of people who were displaced from their homes.

The organization also distributed hygiene kits (containing shampoo, soap, razors, sanitary pads and other essential products), blankets, water bottles and mats to thousands of displaced people.

In March 2016, Oxfam installed a first generator at Aleppo’s main water station that kicks in in the case of a power cut. The organization moved a second one from West to East Aleppo in December 2016 in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Cresent (SARC). Once installed, this generator will have the same function as the first, and both will help pump water to more than one million people.