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In destroyed Aleppo, nearly 2 million people struggle to have clean water

(by Dania Kareh and Eslam Mardini)

Hassan, 15, fills two jerry cans from a public well, and heads back home to his mother and sister in Aleppo. He will do the trip several times to fulfil their water needs. The young boy is one of an estimated 1.8 million people who were left without running water in Aleppo for nearly a month, as ISIS militants, in control of the main water source to the city, had reportedly shut down the water supply.

‘’Every other day, I do four or five round trips to the nearest public well, to fill my jerry cans and provide my family with about 150 liters of water. The task takes about two hours,” says Hassan, who speaks about water running in the taps as a “dream”.
All of Aleppo is now controlled by the government of Syria. But the Eastern part of the city, which sustained a long military offensive and heavy damages, still has not recovered from its near-entire destruction.  People who have returned to their homes have seen water shortages add to their woes. They now rely on public wells and trucks delivering water to certain points. Hassan, who moved from then rebel-held East to government-controlled West Aleppo three years ago, had managed to find a job in a local store to support his 7-year old sister Hanine and their mother Suad  after his father passed away from a heart-attack.

Though Hassan is back at school now in West Aleppo, his days are unlike any other teenager’s, as he has to worry about lack of water instead of focusing on his homework. “I get tired, but feel happy to be able to help my mother and sister,” he says.

To respond to this situation, Oxfam has rehabilitated seven wells which had been equipped with new hardware a year ago by its team. This activity was part of an inter-agency effort to maintain at least 122 wells and provide clean water to Aleppo residents, while UNICEF continues to supply fuel to operate 100 deep wells, and is supporting emergency water trucking at a daily rate of 6,000-8,000 cubic meters—reaching nearly 1 million people in need of water assistance.

Oxfam has also installed 4 tanks with a capacity of 45,000 each, and over 117 household water tanks (of 500 and 1000 litres capacity) to increase the storage capacity of water in  areas hosting a large number of people who were displaced from their homes.
Since the government of Syria and allied forces took back control of East Aleppo in December 2016, Oxfam has done the following to help people in need:

  • Distributed nearly 4,000 Mini hygiene kits consisting of soap, washing powder, shampoo, sanitary pads.
  • Distributed 11,553 Family Hygiene Kits consisting of washing powder, toilet paper, soap, tooth paste, tooth brush, shampoo, razor, sanitary pads towels, etc.
  • Installed four latrines.
  • Distributed more than 2,500 water bottles.
  • Distributed more than 6,613 diaper bags.
  • Distributed nearly 20,000 blankets.
  • Distributed more than 3,000 packets of sanitary pads.
  • Distributed 8,075 floor mats.
  • Distributed 400 buckets.
  • Distributed 1,155 plastic jerry cans.
  • Distributed 5,950 individual winter kits containing fleece hats, scarves and socks for men, women, boys and girls.  
  • Installed 20 metallic water tanks of 1 m³ capacity and 97 metallic water tanks of 0.5 m³ capacities. 

In early February, an Oxfam team completed the rehabilitation of a well in East Aleppo. It is part of a project to rehabilitate seven wells in the area that were equipped with new hardware a year ago. Given water levels in the wells had dropped recently, the Oxfam team lowered the water pumps inside them to keep the flow going. 

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