Syria

UNICEF reaches 25 villages in rural Hama, Syria with safe drinking water

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Azam, 9 years, fills his jerry can with safe drinking water for his family. The trucked water covers the basic needs of 1,300 people who returned to the village following the respite in fighting. Previously, people had to go on a three-hour travel each week to fetch water from a nearby village which cost them a lot of money for water of which they couldn’t trust the source. © UNICEF/ Syria 2018/ Aldroubi

While access is still limited to many areas where the fighting has stopped, UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies are now able to access some formerly hard-to-reach areas as conflict lines shifted.

Lina Al-Qassab

UNICEF, with support from the United Kingdom, has reached 25 villages in east rural Hama with safe drinking water for the first time after years of very limited access to the area. While access is still limited to many areas where the fighting has stopped, UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies are now able to access some formerly hard-to-reach areas as conflict lines shifted.

For families in these areas, the consequences of almost eight years of war have an immense impact on their lives. In rural Hama, war damage and neglect of the water infrastructure meant that most wells and water sources were no longer functional. Years of low rainfall have also dried up local wells leaving families in a desperate situation.

To survive, people had to buy water from private providers at very high prices, with few assurances of water quality, putting the health of their families at risk. This has reportedly increased children’s exposure to waterborne diseases and diarrhoea. Moreover, the limited availability of water meant that not enough of it was available for personal hygiene. School principals in the area reported increased prevalence of lice and scabies amongst school children.

As scorching August heat drove up the demand for water, UNICEF’s water trucks came to the rescue with one million litres of water trucked every five days to the 25 villages, reaching a total of 60,000 people.

“I used to travel three hours every week with my father to fetch water,” 11-year-old Hayder

To increase water storage capacity in the area, UNICEF has also installed ten water tanks with a capacity of 45 cubic metres placed at strategic locations across the affected area. Furthermore, in Kfaraa village which was described by locals as the first safe point for people fleeing the fighting in the northern parts of the country, UNICEF is running hygiene promotion sessions and distributing water purification tablets to mitigate the risk of relying on other unsafe water sources.