Millions of Syrians remain dependent on support for water and sanitation

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SARC- ICRC joint statement. A substantial number of areas throughout Syria are without access to potable water and adequate sanitation as a result of more than two years of fighting. The fighting has also caused massive displacements of population, as large numbers of people move about the country in search of areas that are both safer and better serviced.

Abo-Anas, who approached the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) for help, explains: “We fled from Judaidat al-Fadle in Damascus when fighting broke out there in April. The fighting has ended but we cannot return to live there. The infrastructure is too badly damaged: there is no electricity and no water.”

Judaidet al-Fadle is not an isolated case. In areas where heavy fighting is taking place, numerous water stations have been damaged and cannot pump water to communities that are wholly dependent on them. “This is what happened to the al-Qusayr water station recently. The entire governorate of Hama depends on it for water. It was also the case with the Sulaiman al-Halabi station in Aleppo,” says Firas Farras, water and sanitation coordinator for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Map of water and sanitation activities in Syria - January to June 2013 (PDF)

To maintain the supply of potable water, engineers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have worked together with the local water boards since the onset of the conflict to carry out emergency repairs in areas of heavy fighting. ICRC and SARC have also provided local water boards with water treatment supplies, spare parts and generators. As a result of these joint efforts, 16 million people have had access to clean drinking water since the beginning of the year.

Needs are highest in the eastern governorates – including Raqqa, Hassakeh and Deir Ezzor – where water shortages have reached unprecedented levels. “Al-Raqqah governorate desperately needs water purification material. This May we provided this governorate alone with 20 tonnes of it,” says Mr Farras.

Besides providing materials for securing the supply of potable water for millions of people in need, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have also helped to improve the living conditions of tens of thousands of displaced people living in more than 850 collective shelters, such as schools, sports stadiums, cultural centres, mosques and churches.

“Collective shelters are not intended to serve as dwelling-places for hundreds of people or equipped to accommodate the daily needs of the displaced families,” says Ahmad Kazouini, an engineer with the ICRC’s water and sanitation department in Syria, who also supervises the improvements being made to shelters for displaced people in the country. “A lot of work has to be done to make these places habitable and to make it possible for them to meet some of the basic needs of the displaced families.”

To address some of these needs, engineers from the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have together, since the beginning of the year, made improvements to 292 sites where 44,000 people are living. “We have installed water tanks, doubled or triple water storage capacity, installed shower huts, introduced separate toilets for men and women, and increased the total number of toilets available,” Mr Kazouini says.

Since the beginning of the year, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the ICRC have also carried out the following activities:

  • ensured that 16 million people have access to clean drinking water by providing local water boards throughout Syria with the chemical supplies necessary for treating water: a total of 1,000,000 litres of sodium hypochlorite and 119 tonnes of chlorine gas were provided
  • provided technical support, materials and equipment, including ten generators, for local water boards delivered water by truck to 135,000 people in al-Nabk and Tal-Kurdi in Rural Damascus, al-Furuqlus in Homs, and in Deir Ezzor
  • distributed more than 83,000 10-litre water bottles to displaced people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Aleppo, al-Hassakeh and Deir Ezzor
  • completed improvements to 321 collective shelters serving as temporary accommodation centres for displaced people (by installing showers and water heating units, and by increasing the capacity of the sanitary facilities and the water units) in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Sweida, Homs, Aleppo, Hama, al-Hassakeh, Deir Ezzor, Quneitra, Tartous and Lattakia. Similar improvements are being made at 61 shelters for displaced people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Hama, Deir Ezzor, Tartous and Lattakia.

Concerning plans for the near future, Mr Farras says, “We need to scale up our humanitarian response and attempt to reach more people living in remote or sealed-off areas”.

For further information, please contact:
Vivian Toameh, SARC Damascus, tel: +963 959999639
Rima Kamal, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 33 67 18 or +963 11 331 0476
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26