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Syria: catastrophic water supply

Water pipes destroyed by bombing

People in Syria have difficulty obtaining clean drinking water

The end of fighting in Syria is not in sight, and more than 4.5 million people are dependent on help. Rüdiger Ehler from the Welthungerhilfe emergency aid team and colleagues from the partner organisation People in Need (PIN) toured the country at the end of April to find out where the need is greatest and how the situation will develop.

Following a visit to the city Taftanaz, located in north-western Syria, Rüdiger Ehler noted the following in his travel log: With regard to water supplies, the country is heading towards a catastrophe.

In several Syrian towns, bombs ripped open water pipes. © Iva Zimova, People in Need
In several Syrian towns, bombs ripped open water pipes. © Iva Zimova, People in Need
People have no choice but to buy - often grossly overpriced - water from pedlars. © People in Need
People have no choice but to buy - often grossly overpriced - water from pedlars. © People in Need
In time of war, natural resources are scarce. © People in Need
In time of war, natural resources are scarce. © People in Need

Water and electricity lines have been destroyed due to fighting

Colleagues from PIN say that at one time, Taftanaz had 20,000 inhabitants. Most of them fled during the civil war, and the number of inhabitants has been reduced to 8,000. The centre of the city was subject to heavy air bombardments - dozens of buildings have been destroyed. Water pipes were hit particularly hard.

Pumps do not work without electricity!

The extent of this problem is noticeable when we visit the four large wells outside of the city. Normally these wells supply the entire city with water. The water, which is located deep under the earth, is conveyed to the surface with electricity-powered pumps, and transported to the city via a piping system. It does not work at the moment, as fighting in the country regularly results in power outages. And the pumps do not work without electricity.

A shortage of raw materials and resources - no fuel for generators

There have been attempts to generate electricity with a generator. The problem: the generator is operated with fuel. But raw materials are in short supply during a civil war. Taftanaz is also suffering from a shortage of fuel that is needed to start the huge generator. Those in charge of local water supplies tell us that they were not able to run the generator even once during the last two weeks!
Clean water is exorbitantly priced and rare

At this time, the only way to obtain clean water in Taftanaz is to buy it from private individuals who have their own wells in the country. But they sell water at exorbitant prices, which most are not able to afford. A solution to the water problem is not in sight at the moment. Even if there was enough electricity or fuel for the pumps, the water would have to be pumped into the pipes that were destroyed by bombs - and then large volumes of water would leak into the ground without being used.

The situation will continue to worsen

The situation in Taftanaz is not an isolated case, as other cities and communities are complaining of similar difficulties. It is feared that the situation will worsen in the coming months. The weather will get hot in Syria starting in May, and people will require much more water for agriculture, and also for drinking and washing. Something must be done now to improve access for all - now and particularly in the summer!

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