The United Nations has expressed concern about fighting in the Wadi Barada area northwest 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 on Wednesday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN 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.”
Severe water shortages began in late December, when the regime’s bombardment damaged infrastructure in the rebel-held territory. Over 15,000 people have been displaced from the area as a result of the regime’s and its allies’ assault, now in its 25th day. The regime’s bombardment caused severe damage to residential buildings and vital civilian infrastructure.
“Some 5.5 million people in and around Damascus city continue to be deprived of running water as a result of hostilities in Wadi Barada,” Dujarric said. The Assad regime forces and the Hezbollah militias have pressed on with their assault on the area in violation of the ceasefire which took effect on December 29.
Speaking earlier this month, Jan Egeland, the UN Senior Adviser on Syria, noted that “to sabotage and deny water” could constitute a war crime.
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 lack of clean water.
A UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac on Monday said that private distributors were providing water in and around Damascus. Boulierac said he was worried about the quality and price of those supplies.
The Syrian Coalition called upon the United Nations to send a fact-finding mission to Wadi Barada valley to investigate the crimes being committed against civilians. It said that the Assad regime is using water as a weapon of war against the Syrian people after bombing the Ayn Alfija water facility.
Meanwhile, in northern Syria, the UN said it has provided life-saving assistance to over 150,000 people who have been displaced from eastern Aleppo or have returned to the area.
“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. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies)