A nurse prepares a syringe for a patient infected with the coronavirus in the intensive care unit at the Syrian American Medical Society Hospital, in the city of Idlib, northwest Syria on Sept 20, 2021. (GHAITH ALSAYED / AP)
UNITED NATIONS – A water supply crisis in northern and northeastern Syria affects 5 million vulnerable people, leading to increases in water-borne diseases and challenges to COVID-19 defenses, UN humanitarians said on Tuesday.
People across the northern parts of the country have been unable to reliably access sufficient and safe water due to low water levels, disruptions to water systems and the already reduced operational capacity of water stations.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, "People across the northern parts of the country have been unable to reliably access sufficient and safe water due to low water levels, disruptions to water systems and the already reduced operational capacity of water stations."
"Access to adequate quantities of water and associated services must not be compromised," said the humanitarians. "There is a human right to water, and it must be respected to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians at risk."
The water crisis impacts a population left vulnerable after a decade of conflict, economic crisis and the continued spread of COVID-19.
Lack of safe drinking water leads to an increased prevalence of water-borne diseases, OCHA said. It also reduces a critical first line of defense to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
The continuing lack of electricity strains public health and education systems, disproportionally impacting women and girls' general and reproductive health.
The office said poor rainfall, drought-like conditions and reduced water availability for irrigation in the Euphrates led to the loss of crops. The shortage stands to significantly worsen already high food insecurity and malnutrition rates in the region.
A consolidated aid plan for the next six months targets 3.4 million of the most affected people, OCHA said. It also outlines longer-term response efforts to sustainably address the structural causes that contributed to the water crisis.
The United Nations and partners seek $251 million for the multi-sector response but have received only $51 million.
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