Syria: ICRC helps provide clean water for 10 million people

17-12-2012 Operational Update

As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in terms of water, food and medical assistance continue to grow. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are doing their best to reach those in need.


For English turn subtitles on (CC)

As a result of the constant escalation of violence, Syria's infrastructure has been considerably degraded. Essential public services such as the supply of water are severely affected.

"Millions of people are at risk of not having enough clean drinking water," said Sameer Putros, who is in charge of the ICRC's water and habitat activities in Syria. "Security constraints, and shortages of the products required to treat water, make it difficult for local water boards to provide clean water for residents and displaced people."

Since November, the ICRC has been supporting the Ministry of Water Resources and local water boards by providing consumable water-treatment products. "Our project helped ensure that some 10 million people in Tartous, Lattakia, Al-Quneitra, Deir Ezzor, Al Hassakeh, Al-Raqqa, Homs, Damascus and Rural Damascus, Hama, Daraa and Al Sweida have clean water," said Mr Putros.

The ICRC's efforts to help ensure that people have clean drinking water have at times been hampered in certain areas, such as Aleppo and Deir Ezzor, because of the ongoing armed confrontations. "Water that has not been disinfected can contain various bacteria and viruses that may cause all kinds of gastrointestinal disorders, such as acute diarrhoea, which can be fatal, especially for small children and elderly people," explained Andrea Reis, who coordinates the ICRC's health activities in Syria. "It is vitally important, therefore, that water engineers and other humanitarian workers be allowed to carry out their activities in safety."

Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC also delivers water by truck to areas in Rural Damascus, Homs and Deir Ezzor. In exceptional cases of extreme emergency, the ICRC has also started distributing bottled drinking water to people who have just been displaced.

In addition to providing water, the ICRC makes available to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent the supplies and technical expertise required to upgrade water and sanitary facilities in schools and other public buildings housing displaced people. "We have to expand the facilities, install showers, introduce separate toilets for men and women, and set up water heating units for the winter season to help the people accommodated cope with the low temperatures," said Mr Putros.

Between 25 October and 5 December, together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC:

  • supplied local water boards with 250 tonnes of aluminium sulphate and significant quantities of other water-treatment products to ensure that clean water is available to some 10 million people for three months;
  • continued to deliver water by truck to areas in Rural Damascus, Homs and Deir Ezzor for more than 100,000 internally displaced people;
  • upgraded water, sanitary and housing facilities in centres sheltering displaced people, including in schools and other public buildings, in the governorates of Homs, Aleppo, al-Raqqa, al-Sweida and Idlib. The work has been completed in 270 centres housing more than 80,000 people, but is still under way in 145 centres;
  • provided four generators for installation in Homs governorate. The generators will help water boards improve the water flow.

In addition to the water and habitat activities it has carried out over the past six weeks, the ICRC has also distributed food to nearly 200,000 people displaced by the conflict. The distributions covered Rural Damascus, Homs, Deir Ezzor and al-Raqqa to the east, Aleppo and Idlib in the north. In addition, the ICRC distributed mattresses, blankets and hygiene items for around 35,000 people.

The ICRC also delivered intravenous fluids, anaesthetics and other medicines required for surgery, surgical supplies, wound-dressing materials and other medical supplies to the old city of Homs. In addition, an operating table, surgical equipment and anaesthetic drugs were delivered to Ibn al Nafees Hospital in Damascus. The ICRC also conducted an evaluation of al-Nahda private hospital in Homs as part of an ongoing assessment of health facilities in several parts of the country.

For further information, please contact:

Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Rima Kamal, ICRC Damascus, tel: + 963 930 33 67 18 or + 963 11 331 0476
Alexis Heeb, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 72 or +41 79 218 76 10
Marie-Claire Feghali, ICRC Geneva, tel : + 41 22 730 25 78 or + 41 79 244 64 63