Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) work helps protect children and families in Syria against waterborne diseases
Rural Damascus, Syria, 27 April 2021- Around 80,000 people in areas across Rural Damascus have long suffered from overflowing sewer networks in their neighbourhoods.
The impact of years of conflict and economic hardship has driven considerable population movement from the capital Damascus to rural areas like Alasad suburb and the conflict-ravaged city of Irbeen, which created massive pressure on already stretched WASH services, including sewer systems.
As a result, these suburbs have repetitively witnessed harmful floods from blocked sewage networks costing residents material losses and posing threats to their health.
“I had to call a plumping workshop after midnight to salvage my mother’s house that was almost drowning in sewage water,” says Mazen Hamza, a resident of Alasad suburb, describing the situation after a recent heavy rainfall. “It caused an electrical short circuit and damaged the newly refurbished walls.”
On a low land on the outskirts of the suburb, stands an industrial compound where many internally displaced families have sought refuge in prefabricated settlements while hunting job opportunities in the compound. On rainy days, water runs from the nearby hills and floods the zone, causing harm to goods and people’s homes.
“The problem persists in summer when we suffer from insects and rodents. You can often smell bad odors in the air as temperatures rise,” says Reem Khalouf, another resident of the suburb.
The floods have also disrupted children’s education, especially in winter.
“It’s very hard to reach school on rainy days and those who manage would arrive soaked with water which affects their performance,” says Widad Ahmad, a local school clerk.
“Last time it rained, we had to place a trail of bricks on the entrance and students would jump from one to another to make their way in without dipping in the pond that was formed by rain and sewer water,” she adds.
In Irbeen city, the issue is adding to the financial pressure on families already exhausted by years of conflict and displacement.
“Most people are poor here,” says Mahmoud, a resident of Irbeen.
“But they are forced to pay for plumbers to stop sewer water from entering their homes.”
Last November, thanks to a generous contribution from the Government and people of Japan, UNICEF launched a project to rehabilitate the sewer networks in Alasad suburb and Irbeen city. The rehabilitation involved clearing blockages where possible and replacing sewer lines with bigger ones where blockages are severe.
“We are working hard every day, even on rainy days, to put an end to people’s suffering,” says Issam Shehadat, the engineer supervising the UNICEF-supported work in Irbeen.