As millions suffer water shortages in Syria, UN looks to keep potable supply safe

The United Nations has expressed concern about fighting in the Wadi Barada area of west Damascus, which in addition to displacing thousands of people, has also restricted water supplies to some 5.5 million people in and around the Syrian capital.

Addressing reporters in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the Organization and its partners are working with water authorities “to implement an emergency plan to meet around 30 per cent of the daily needs of people.”

Support includes providing water-quality testing equipment and chemicals needed to undertake necessary quality tests, and pre-positioning medicines and kits in case of cholera or other waterborne diseases.

“The UN continues a public campaign to raise awareness on safe water practices and safe water sources to prevent diseases, which remains the main concern,” Mr. Dujarric said.

Severe water shortages began in late December, when fighting damaged infrastructure located in the rebel-held territory.

Speaking earlier this month, Jan Egeland, the UN Senior Adviser on Syria, noted that “to sabotage and deny water” could constitute a war crime.

Meanwhile, in northern Syria, more than 36,000 people have been evacuated to the western countryside of Aleppo and Idleb Governorates, according to the UN. An additional 11,000 people have been moved to different areas of Aleppo city, including areas which had previously been under siege.

“The UN and our national and international humanitarian partners continue efforts to scale up our response in Aleppo to do all we can to ensure that the people of Aleppo receive the aid they need,” Mr. Dujarric said.