17 January 2017
Millions of people in Damascus are facing acute water shortages weeks after two main water supply lines were cut.
Residents in the Syrian capital have been forced to seek out alternative water sources since water pipelines were damaged during increased fighting in rural Damascus in mid-December.
Many families are relying on boreholes and have to queue for hours every day for clean water.
In some cases, children carry heavy water containers for up to half an hour to reach their homes.
Mohamed lives in the hills around the city and walks a long distance to the water distribution point. He said: “By the time we get down, we either make it or we don’t make it.”
His friend added: “It’s been a month that I haven’t worked. I’ve just been fetching water. It’s not only me, it’s everyone.”
Tankers deliver over a million litres daily
The Red Cross and Red Crescent are working to alleviate the water shortage.
Hosam Faysal, our Syria crisis programme manager, said: “Many people now have to ration the water they consume.
“We are concerned that this could lead to waterborne disease, especially among children.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have been using water tankers to deliver water into the city since the shortages began.
Schools, hospitals, bakeries and people in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods are being prioritised.
Around 1.7 million litres of water are being delivered into the city every day.
One volunteer said: “Every day Red Crescent volunteers come here to fill up the water tanks and start the distribution of water.
“More than half the hospitals in Damascus are getting water from these Red Crescent tankers working in co-operation with ICRC.
“We’re also distributing water to local people who don’t have access to it.”
In addition to delivering water, 39 emergency boreholes, which support the main water network, have been opened up by Red Crescent teams in Damascus.
Water sources must be protected
The ICRC water team is ready to make the necessary repairs to the damaged water pipelines as soon as the area becomes accessible.
Faysal added: “Water sources and other vital infrastructure must be protected at all times. They should not be attacked or restricted, and are completely protected under the laws of war.
“Such incidents have been repeated on several occasions in Syria, and we remind all parties of their utmost responsibility to protect all services which are essential for the survival of civilians.”