HotSpots H2O: Hundreds of Thousands Still Without Water In Embattled Syria

Rubble in Syria. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

More than 400,000 people in northern Syria are short of water amid a Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces in the region. 

The offensive began on October 9, a few days after U.S. President Donald Trump chose to withdraw American troops that were allied with the Kurdish forces. On October 17, Turkey agreed to a temporary ceasefire, but the violence has already deepened the grim humanitarian crisis in Syria. 

As of last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 170,000 to 200,000 people had been displaced by the conflict and were in need of shelter, food, and water. 

An estimated 400,000 people in the city of Hasaka are also without water following damages to the Alouk water station. Currently, a connection to another water station is providing a third of the city’s water needs, but the remainder of residents are relying on shallow, unsafe wells. Aid groups are attempting to bring in water, but fighting was slowing efforts. 

“The situation on the ground is becoming increasingly dire, and once again, civilians are paying the highest price,” said Misty Buswell, Middle East policy director at the International Rescue Committee. 

Buswell noted that water availability is becoming a problem throughout the region. “There are already reports of [water] shortages in some rural areas, with possibly much worse to be seen in a few days if services are not able to get back up and running soon.”

The current ceasefire was brokered by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. It provides five days for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to withdraw from Ras al Ain, a border town that has been the site of much of the fighting. If the SDF has not fully retreated from Ras al Ain by Tuesday, Turkey says it will resume the offensive. 

On Sunday evening, the SDF announced that they had withdrawn from Ras al Ain, but others on the ground claim that some fighters remained in the city. 

2 replies
  1. Connor Bebb says:

    Hi Doug,

    We publish our HotSpots H2O series every Monday. You can also subscribe here on our website to our weekly newsletter and The Stream, a daily rundown of global water news, for even more coverage. Thank you for reading.

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