Disruption of water and sanitation services threatens health in Syria

Following a nationwide assessment, UNICEF reports that the ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in pressing health concerns due to the disruption of water and sanitation services and subsequent lack of access to basic hygiene. These conditions pose a particular threat to children, who are especially vulnerable to waterborne diseases. In an article from the UN News Centre, UNICEF reports that more than 4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, including approximately 2 million children. Syrians have been largely unable to reach humanitarian assistance amid the conflict.

The conflict has not only resulted in infrastructural damage, power cuts, and contamination of key water sources, but has affected the production of water treatment and basic hygiene items such as soap. The UNICEF assessment found that the treatment of sewage water has decreased by half, access to toilets and showers is scarce, and water from mobile tankers is often too expensive. UNICEF Representative in Syria Youssouf Abdel-Jelil told the UN News Centre that UNICEF has been attempting to prioritize water and sanitation, saying, “We are doing everything possible to scale up our reach and ensure safe water and sanitation are available to more people.” He notes that UNICEF is beginning an initiative to ship 1 million liters of chlorine that will purify water for more than 10 million people.

While UNICEF and other organizations have been working to provide affected people with clean water for drinking and household use, they have cited a lack of funds and the conflict as major barriers to their services. So far, according to the UN News Centre, the international community has committed more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria for the reconstruction of critical infrastructure, the provision of essential medicines, and the support to refugees and the poor.

Read the full UN News Centre article here.