After enduring more than four years of civil war, Syrians are now being deprived of the one resource they can’t survive without -- water.
For weeks, areas of Aleppo were without water after Al Qaeda's Nusra Front closed the city’s main water station to government and insurgent-held areas, Reuters reported. The main water plant started functioning again on Friday in emergency mode, but residents, particularly children, remain at risk for waterborne illnesses as a result, and aid groups are eager to find long-term solutions to the water crisis.
The situation hit at the height of summer, and despite organizations’ ramped up aid efforts, an estimated 500,000 people in Aleppo are struggling to get enough water to survive, according to UNICEF.
“We can live through difficult circumstances, but not without water,” al-Khatib, a resident of the al-Shaar neighborhood, told Syria Deeply. “Taking a bath or washing has become a dream. They must figure out a way to help us.”
Desperate for a reprieve, many people turned to untreated well water, which comes with a host of healthy risks.
UNICEF warned that, as a result, children are at a “high risk” for contracting debilitating conditions, including diarrheal diseases and Hepatitis A.
There were a record 1,700 Hepatitis A cases reported in one week alone in February, according to UNICEF.
Just since the beginning of July, 3,000 children reported mild cases of diarrhea.
Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death of children under 5
UNICEF has doled out diarrheal kits to thousands of children and water purification tablets to more than 1 million people.
Together with its partners, the aid group is working to improve infrastructure and bring in more water to the affected areas.
It was delivering over 200,000 gallons, and has now increased to more than 600,000 gallons -- more than it's ever brought in before.
Along with the Red Cross, OXFAM and other agencies, UNICEF is also drilling 50 ground water wells that could provide up to 4 million liters of water per day and developing an infiltration well near Aleppo City’s Kwaik River.
“These water cuts came at the worst possible time, while Syrians are suffering in an intense summer heat wave,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF’s Syria representative, said in a statement. “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.”