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HotSpots H2O, March 12: Spotlight on Recent Unrest in Syria

The Rundown

Violence is escalating across war-torn Syria, leading to civilian deaths, devastated infrastructure, and severe water shortages. On February 18, 2018, Syrian government forces began a deadly campaign to retake rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. Weeks of ongoing airstrikes demolished entire neighborhoods and killed hundreds of civilians. Many people have no access to clean water and are forced to drink from untreated surface wells.

Elsewhere in Syria, Turkish troops and Syrian rebels are attempting to oust the Kurdish YPG militia from the northern Afrin region, near the Turkish border. Kurdish media reports that Turkish forces damaged public water facilities, cutting off the water supply of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

“[Residents of Eastern Ghouta] are spending a lot of time underground in cold and humid basements…No proper sanitation is the norm. People are basically using buckets. Access to safe drinkable water is also a problem. People are using hand operated pumps in shallow water and it is polluted.” –A UNICEF spokesman in Damascus, in reference to the grim living conditions in Eastern Ghouta. Aid convoys are struggling to reach the desperate civilians.

By The Numbers

1,000 Estimated number of civilians killed by continuous airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta since February 18, 2018.

93 percent Proportion of buildings destroyed in one of Eastern Ghouta’s districts. Satellite imagery suggests that the government targets essential civilian infrastructure and services, such as a water tower in the Harasta neighbourhood.

70 percent Proportion of aid confiscated from a WHO convoy by the Syrian government earlier this year. Many aid trucks were forced to leave Eastern Ghouta without unloading due to safety concerns.

200,000 Number of people in Syria’s Afrin region who risk losing water access as fighting closes in on dams and water facilities near Afrin town.

On The Radar

Airstrikes continue in Eastern Ghouta despite civilian casualties and outcry from the international community. Aid workers report that thousands of families now live in underground basements and shelters. Many people lack access to water and sanitation, making them vulnerable to the spread of waterborne diseases.

In northern Syria, Turkey and allied rebel forces reached the outskirts of Afrin town. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish army plans to enter Afrin town soon, a move which would undoubtedly lead to further destruction.  

Resources and Further Reading

Aid convoy arrives in Syria’s Afrin, ICRC says (Reuters)
Aid groups vow to deliver life-saving supplies to Eastern Ghouta (Al Jazeera)
Convoy delivers food to Syria’s besieged Ghouta amid shelling (Reuters)
Eastern Ghouta: Syrian army splits enclave in three, reports say (BBC)
Eastern Ghouta bombardment: 674 Syria civilians killed in 13 days (Al Jazeera)
Eastern Ghouta Situation Overview – Rural Damascus, Syria: 22-28 February 2018 (ReliefWeb)
Eastern Ghouta Syria: The neighbourhoods below the bombs (BBC)
‘People are angry’: aid trucks forced to flee eastern Ghouta without unloading (The Guardian)
Turkish forces reach outskirts of Afrin town: monitor (Reuters)

Kayla Ritter is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied International Relations and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is currently based in Manton, Michigan. Kayla enjoys running, writing, and traveling. Contact Kayla Ritter

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