Eight water facilities in northwest Syria were damaged during skirmishes in recent weeks, disrupting drinking water provision for nearly 250,000 people in the Al-Ma’ra district of southern Idlib, UNICEF reports.
The attacks come as fighting between the Syrian government and rebel groups escalates throughout the country’s northwest. In 2018, Syria ousted Islamic State militants from several major cities, but pockets of unrest remain.
According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1.2 million people in northwest Syria need food assistance, and 330,000 have been displaced.
Several hundred people, including humanitarian workers, have died in the region since violence intensified at the end of April. An unconfirmed report claims that 150 deaths occurred in just the past two weeks.
The OCHA report notes that the attacks could potentially be considered a breach of international humanitarian law, due to the concurrent destruction of civilian infrastructure. These damages, and the unrest as a whole, are also complicating relief efforts.
Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, decried the situation, calling for an end to the violence.
“Public services, critical for children, have come under attack in the past weeks as a result of fighting in northwest Syria. Part of that sad reality are repeated attacks against water facilities, cutting off children and families from water as summer temperatures soar.
“Water facilities are not a target, they should be protected at all times. In line with international humanitarian law, all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them have an obligation to stop attacks on water facilities and all basic civilian infrastructure across Syria.”
Past Circle of Blue reporting on Syria:
Infographic: Syria Drought and Climate Change
HotSpots H2O, March 12: Spotlight on Recent Unrest in Syria
HotSpots H2O, December 17: Refugees Returning to Syria Face Devastated Water, Sewage Infrastructure
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