Syria: Safe drinking water at last, after four years.

31 May 2017

Syria: Safe drinking water at last, after four years.

By Safi Sahli, Medair relief worker

Imagine how difficult your life would be if, for the next four years, you had very limited access to safe and clean water. If you lived in rural Homs, you wouldn’t need to imagine it. That’s what they have been dealing with since 2013.

“We have not received a drop of water through the water network since 2013,” said a teacher in Al-Aliyat, a small village south of Homs. “Our only choice is to buy from the trucks that carry water from unknown sources.”

In March 2017, I was part of a Medair team from Damascus on a field visit to southern and western Homs. We wanted to learn more about their enormous water needs and see how we could help.

Our two-day visit was eye-opening. We met with local water authorities in Homs to get an overview of the situation, and then visited three villages near Homs: Al-Aliyat, Al-Nezha, and Swairi. In each of these villages we connected with people who shared their stories and concerns over their lack of access to safe drinking water.

The only way that families can receive safe water is from trucks that arrive and sell the water at a high price. Even then, the source of water is unknown. Is it really safe to drink or could it be contaminated? “I do not know where the water we buy from the trucks comes from,” said a father from Swairi. “I am worried about the health of my children, but we have to drink water to stay alive.”

A truck sells water to households in Al-Nezha

Sadly, the high cost of trucked-in water makes it unaffordable for many families. ‘’We are poor and my husband is blind. I do not have the money to buy enough water,” said a resident of Al-Nezha. “Even if I could afford it, I’d have to wait for at least two days without water to find a free truck. The demand is too high here!’’  

A Medair engineer discusses solutions with local authorities

After consulting with residents and authorities, Medair made a plan to respond to this crisis. Thanks to your monthly support, we have been able to rapidly provide safe drinking water to these three villages through two projects. For the villages of Al-Aliyat and Al-Nezha, we have put in place three kilometres of pipework and pumps that link to the nearest functioning safe well. This intervention has provided 6,000 people with safe running water, which no longer costs them anything. In the village of Swairi we have provided the necessary equipment to operate a newly drilled well that has brought safe water to 15,000 more people.

As we travelled back to Damascus after the March assessment, I reflected on the suffering that my family and I had endured recently—suffering felt by all the people of Damascus when the fighting affected our water supply. Yet the water shortage in Damascus had lasted just a few weeks. Our suffering seemed very minor compared to the people we met on this field trip. That made us more determined than ever to take prompt action and bring safe water to rural Homs.  

Thankfully, by the end of April, we had achieved our objectives in rural Homs. In the village of Al-Aliyat, everyone was very happy:  “Safe water and from the taps! Thank you, Medair!” 

Your monthly gift to Medair makes these kinds of critical projects possible. If you haven’t already joined our monthly team, please sign up today. Thank you!

Medair’s work in Syria is made possible with support from the European Union, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Solidarity, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

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