Damascus water crisis escalates, UNICEF warns of increasing diseases among children

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ARA News

Damascus – Millions of people in and around Damascus suffer lack of water after the springs of Wadi Barada have been broken due to ongoing fighting between Syrian regime troops and rebel groups.

The springs of Wadi Barada, located just outside Damascus, account for 70% of the water supplies in Damascus. Over four million people in the Syrian capital have been cut off from water for weeks.

On Friday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) raised the alarm over a potential increase in diarrheal diseases among children.

“While private distributors are providing water, we are worried about quality and price of those supplies,” said Christophe Boulierac, a spokesperson for UNICEF.

Residents have been able to access water for up to two hours every three or four days through water rationing. But many have turned to private distributors, where neither price nor quality are regulated, prompting concerns about the risk of water-borne diseases among children, the UN agency reported.

UNICEF also reported that children are taking on the burden of water collection for their families and that most children had walked at least half an hour to collect water from the nearest mosque or public water point. “They waited in line for up to two hours in freezing temperatures.”

“So far, UNICEF and its partners have rehabilitated and equipped 120 wells in and around Damascus in order to provide a third of residents’ daily water needs. As of 22 December, those wells were the only source of water for the entire city,” the agency said. “This past week, daily water trucking resumed for 50 schools in Damascus to reach up to 30,000 children.”

Since December 22, the Syrian capital and its suburbs have been cut off from the aquifers which used to supply them. The infrastructure which carried the water has also been damaged.

“The two primary sources of clean and safe drinking water, that served 70% of the population in and around Damascus, are not functioning due to their deliberate targeting,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported last week.

The UN has expressed deep concerns about the fate of the affected Syrian civilians, stressing that the crisis could lead to waterborne diseases, particularly among children.

Throughout Syria, close to 15 million people are in need of water assistance.

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