UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Children’s Fund has raised alarm over a potential increase in diarrheal diseases among people, especially children, in the areas around Damascus due to a lack of clean water.
A UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac informed media at a press briefing in Geneva that private distributors were providing water in and around Damascus but he was worried about the quality and price of those supplies.
Boulierac further said that residents did not have access to water for up to two hours every three or four days. Therefore, he said, residents had resorted to getting water from private distributors, whose supplies were not regulated with regards to price or quality. Currently, families are reportedly paying $12 for 1,000 litres of water. The spokesperson further said that a lack of regulation of the quality of water had prompted concerns about the risk of water-borne diseases among children.
The UNICEF also reported that children were taking the burden of collecting water for their families and most children had to walk at least half an hour to collect water from the nearest water supply, which was usually a mosque.
So far UNICEF and its partners have rehabilitated and equipped 120 wells in and around Damascus in order to provide water to a third of its residents. As of December 22, these wells have been the only source of water for the entire city.
UNICEF has also provided generators and fuel in order to increase water production for 3.5 million people. This past week, UNICEF was providing water to 50 schools with 30,000 children through water trucks.
Boulierac informed that these solutions were temporary and UNICEF and its partners were ready to initiate repair of damaged water networks as soon as access was granted. He emphasised that all parties in the conflict must meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and should protect the civilian infrastructure, including water facilities.
Boulierac reported that the area’s two primary water sources in Wadi Barada were natural springs which had been affected by fighting. He was unable to provide details on the current situation in Wadi Barada due to a lack of access to the area.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said that once teams have access to public water facilities, it would take a minimum of four days to complete repairs, possibly longer depending on the nature of the damage. He also noted that some people were using water sources near the river within Damascus, but the water had yet to be tested for bacterial safety.