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Syria: Red Cross and Red Crescent alarmed about water shortages

25-07-2014 News Release 14/123

25 July 2014, Geneva/Damascus (International Federation/ICRC/SARC) – Lack of rain, low water levels, armed conflict and damaged water and sanitation infrastructure are causing a worsening drought in Syria with dire humanitarian consequences for millions, warns the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

"The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its Movement partners are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian impact of the current drought," says Dr Attar, president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). "Limited access to clean water will continue to affect the life of Syrians for years to come and we call on local and national authorities to cooperate with all aid agencies present in the country to not only meet current needs, but also develop a longer-term response to this deepening crisis."

Limited winter rain and high summer temperatures have affected agriculture and food security in most governorates including Aleppo, Hassakeh, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, where people are extremely vulnerable after three years of conflict. National wheat production in 2014 is expected to be 52 per cent lower than in 2013, according to the SARC. The prices of bread and other foods may continue to rise as a result.

The cumulative effects of drought and armed conflict have affected all Syrians, but they are particularly acute for internally displaced persons and the communities that welcome them. Families fleeing violence can rapidly become a strain on the already stretched resources of host communities, who themselves face frequent water cuts and shortages. In addition, living conditions in many shelters that host the displaced are often unsanitary, and contaminated water has triggered several outbreaks of hepatitis A, skin diseases and diarrhoeal diseases.

The SARC and its Movement partners today provide clean water to millions of people across Syria, partly by carrying out emergency repairs and maintaining essential infrastructure. SARC engineers work closely with local water authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross in all 14 Syrian governorates to repair wells, water stations, pipelines and sewers. However, authorities and aid agencies must urgently tackle the longer-term implications of chronic water shortages.

"Syria is already facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and this summer millions of families are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain clean water," says Dr Attar. "We urge all parties to the conflict to ensure the provision of clean water for all Syrians at all times, and call on the international community to rapidly increase its support for the essential water and sanitation programs of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Syria."

END

Editor’s note:
In June, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent worked closely with the ICRC and local water boards to provide:

• tanker trucks that brought water to more than 185,000 people in Homs, Rural Damascus, Hama and Deir Ezzor;
• rubbish collection in Idlib city, improving hygiene for over 100,000 people;
• upgrades to eleven centres housing displaced people, bringing clean water, proper sanitation and decent housing to over 9,400 people in Rural Damascus. Homs, Hama, and Dara'a;
• supplies needed to treat water from Al Figeh Spring, the main source of water for around four million people living in Damascus city and the surrounding areas;
• general maintenance and emergency repairs required to maintain the availability of safe water for more than a million people in Rural Damascus and Deir Ezzor;
• spare parts for water stations in Hassakeh Governorate, such as Ras Al Ain, Al Malekia, Al Jawadiah and Qamishly, which together serve over 800,000 people;
• a water emergency set consisting of water bladders, water tanks, hoses, pipes and tap stands for 50,000 people in Aleppo, with more sets to be deployed soon in southern Syria, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, under a programme supported by the Norwegian Red Cross.

Ninety-eight SARC volunteers, including engineers, work in water and sanitation teams across the country's 14 governorates. A further 95 volunteers in 14 SARC branches are promoting better hygiene, particularly in shelters for internally displaced persons.

The SARC volunteers have benefitted from the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and member National Societies such as the British Red Cross, which has been running a disaster response training programme for the past 10 years, training SARC volunteers in disaster management, assessment, and water and sanitation projects.

For further information, please contact:

In Damascus:
• Vivian Tou’meh, Communications Coordinator, Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Mobile: +963 113 327 645/46 Email: vivianto3@gmail.com

• Ralph El Hage, International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria
Mobile: +963 930 33 67 18 Email: relhage@icrc.org

In Beirut:
• Raefah Makki, Senior Communications Officer, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, MENA Zone, Beirut
Mobile: +961 70 258225 Email: raefah.makki@ifrc.org

In Geneva:
• Nada Doumani, Public Relations Officer, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva
Mobile: +41 79 447 3726 Email: ndoumani@icrc.org

• Reeni Amin Chua, Communication Officer, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva
Mobile: +41 79 708 62 73 Email: reeni.aminchua@ifrc.org