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Damascus water shortage risks pandemic

UOSSM (Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux), which provides free medical aid to the people of Syria regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or political affiliation, has issued a warning about the state of water supplies in Syria. The aid organization states that the water shortage in Damascus puts 4 million civilians, in the war-tone country, at great risk.

The two primary sources of drinking water- Wadi Barada and Ain-al-Fijah – which provide water for 70 percent of the population of Damascus have recently been attacked and heavily damaged. Neither water supply has been operational since December 22, 2016. According to The New Arab there is disagreement as to which side is responsible for the water loss. With Ain-al-Fihah, for example, the Syrian regime accuse the rebels in the Wadi Barada region of contaminating the capital’s water supply with diesel. As a counter-claim, the rebel forces argue that water infrastructures in the area have been damaged by regime bombardment, which has rendered the supply pipework inoperable.

Journalist on the ground, Joyce Hackel, spoke with one child about the hardship. The child said: “We woke up in the morning. My mom was trying to make coffee, and she was telling me, ‘The water smells funny. Then we read the news, and the Syrian authorities issued a statement. We even received some kind of warning from the UN Department for Safety and Security indicating that yes, the water was poisoned using the diesel and other toxic liquid.”

The main alternative for clean water – purchasing water – is too expensive for the majority of the population. There are reports of water trading for up to 500 Syrian Pounds per liter. This has forced many to drink substandard water. Here there is a significant risk of a water borne disease pandemic developing. This could be as the result of parasites; or bacterial diseases like typhoid and cholera. Should this arise, the current medical infrastructure is not equipped to handle a pandemic of this scale.

As a result, the UOSSM organization urges the international community to provide water, sanitation and hygiene aid to the people of Damascus. This is on the basis that water is a basic human need and not a weapon. to use against the population.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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