22 July 2015 – The restoration of water supplies to the war-torn city of Aleppo has come as a welcome relief to residents whose taps have run dry in recent weeks due to the fighting and frequent power cuts. The disruption to piped water supplies - which in some cases was deliberately implemented by parties to the conflict - increased the risk of water-borne disease especially among children.
“These water cuts came at the worst possible time, while Syrians are suffering in an intense summer heat wave,” said Hanaa Singer, Unicef Representative in Syria. “Some neighborhoods have been without running water for nearly three weeks leaving hundreds of thousands of children thirsty, dehydrated and vulnerable to disease.”
Since the beginning of July alone, 41 per cent of children attending Unicef-supported clinics in Aleppo governorate - 3,000 children in all - reported mild cases of diarrhea.
“We remain concerned that water supplies in Aleppo could be cut again any time adding to what is already a severe water crisis throughout the country,” said Singer.
To address the crisis, and despite the on-going violence, Unicef has trebled the scale of its water trucking services from 800,000 to 2.5 million litres a day, the largest volume of water delivered since the start of the conflict. The service provides 15 litres (about four gallons) of water per person daily to nearly 200,000 people in some of the hardest-hit communities in Aleppo.
Unicef is working around the clock to provide a longer-term solution in cooperation with partners, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), OXFAM, Water Authorities in Aleppo and local NGOs.
The water trucking service has been complemented by the drilling of 50 ground water wells that can provide up to 16 million liters of water per day. In addition, Unicef is developing an infiltration well, close to Aleppo City’s Kwaik River, to enhance the provision of water by more than ten-fold of a regular groundwater well. Despite these efforts, an estimated 500,000 people in Aleppo are struggling to receive enough water to survive.
To address the rising incidence of water-borne illness, Unicef has delivered diarrhea kits sufficient to treat more than 18,000 children. In anticipation of further water shortages and to prevent disease outbreaks, Unicef through its partners is distributing water purification tablets for up to 1 million people.
Across the country, Unicef is working with partners to support the vital water infrastructure on which some 15 million people in Syria depend, equipping wells and supporting procurement and distribution of water treatment supplies.
Unicef reminds parties to the conflict to refrain from attacking or deliberately interrupting water supplies, treatment and distribution systems, acts which are prohibited under international Humanitarian law.
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