Syria Conflict: Efforts To Alleviate Water Crisis

GENEVA, Switzerland

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) are concerned about a possible humanitarian crisis in northern Syria arising from a lack of access to clean drinking water.

An attack by Turkey on Northern Syria in October followed United States’ troops withdrawal from the region which effectively opened the door for Turkey’s offensive.

Critical infrastructure, damaged by Turkish bombs on October 11 and again October 29, remains out of service. Continued fighting has prevented repair crews from accessing the site. The pumping station serves over 400,000 civilians in the city of Hasaka and in two camps nearby.

ICRC and SARC are distributing drinking water to those affected and report that by November 3 over 460,000 liters of water had been distributed. Well water is supplementing the distribution.

“It’s imperative that we find a solution to this nascent water crisis. A water station that serves 400,000 people is a critical piece of infrastructure that must be put into action,” said Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC's regional director. "We call on all parties to ensure safe access to conduct any necessary repairs".

"International Humanitarian Law aims at ensuring basic needs of civilians are met, even in times of conflict. In north-east Syria, the infrastructure (e.g. water stations and dams) for water supply systems are located near the frontlines, and ICRC and SARC are calling for protection of this infrastructure to assure adequate water supply to the civilians".

Allouk water station – which normally provides water to 460,000 people, is currently functioning at 50 per cent of its normal capacity. Only half (15 out of 30) of the boreholes that supply the station are operational. The other half are in areas where there is ongoing violence. Electricity needs to be restored to the boreholes in order for them to function.

The ICRC has urged all parties in the conflict to respect civilian life by taking every possible measure to protect and respect civilians and infrastructure, and to allow safe passage for those who want to escape the fighting in search for safety.

Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, said in November, following a visit to Syria that “the safety and protection of hundreds of thousands of civilians affected by the recent escalation of hostilities in northeast Syria remain a grave concern. While the intensity and scope of violence have declined in recent weeks, localized heavy fighting continues”.

“Of the more than 200,000 people who fled the fighting in recent weeks, close to 100,000 people have not yet been able to return home and are dispersed across improvised camps and collective shelters. These recent displacements are compounding an already dire situation in which some 710,000 people were already displaced and approximately 1.8 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance…While humanitarian actors have continued to mobilize and help people affected by the hostilities where access is still possible”.

Rochdi urged all parties to do more to facilitate guaranteed safe, unimpeded and sustained access for the UN and its humanitarian partners. “Efforts are ongoing to ensure the Allouk water station, which provides safe water to about 460,000 Syrians, can be restored as soon as possible after having been damaged multiple times”.

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