For the sixth time since October, actoins by Turkey and Sunni rebel allies cut water service from the Allouk (Alok) pumping station 7 May.
Water authorities sent out an alert asking households to manage water consumption but the action will hamper efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the region at risk. Supply was subsequently resumed but only at about 40 percent capacity.
The Allouk facility supplies potable water to more than 460,000 people in Al-Hasakeh, Syria, including hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians and Islamic State captives. It is estimated that about half are infants and children, who are living in under-resourced camps and detention centres.
As reported in Al-Monitor, “The autonomous administration accuses Turkey of weaponizing water as a means of forcing it to supply electricity to the 1,100 square kilometers (680 square miles) of territory in northeast Syria currently under Turkish occupation at the expense of people who would receive less power daily as a result. More broadly, Turkey is seeking to stifle the Kurdish-dominated autonomous administration through a cocktail of political, economic and military pressure.”
Water supply stoppages in the region are a regular occurrence. “Access to safe water in the context of protection efforts from the coronavirus disease is even more essential and lifesaving than it already is. Hand-washing and good hygiene practices are our first line of protection from COVID-19. The repeated interruption of water supply for children and families who depend on the [Alok] water station for safe water puts them in unacceptable risk,” said UNICEF Syria representative Fran Equiza in emailed comments to Al-Monitor.
Other NGOs have likened Turkey’s actions to war crimes. “It's very clear that we have a very serious problem with parties weaponizing water and humanitarian aid in northeast Syria and risking a COVID response,” said Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Only one COVID-19 death has been recorded so far in the territory run by the autonomous administration, home to over two million people. But experts warn that the risk of mass infection remains perilously high.