In the ancient city of Damascus, the capital of Syria, millions of people have been suffering from an acute water crisis. As reported in The New York Times, drinking water is the latest casualty of conflict. The violence of war has brought with it the despair of dry taps.
The creative adaptations and resilience of Damascus residents is in full swing. In one woman’s words: “‘When you cut off the water, we dig for water. When you cut off the tap, we make a tap.’”
The Barada Valley, north of Damascus, provides most of the water for the city. Two opposing forces in the war, the government forces of Bashar-al-Assad—and, the antigovernment forces—have blamed each other for destroying the Valley’s water structure in late December.
Antigovernment activists have revealed photographs “purporting to show structures” that were “damaged by exploding barrels dropped from government helicopters.” However, the United Nations has said that ongoing conflict at the site of the Valley has prevented the organization from assessing which group was responsible. What is clear, according to Jens Laerke, the spokesman for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva—is that “the ‘deliberate targeting of the water infrastructure’ has caused the shut-off.’”
Credit: Anne Barnard/ The New York Times
Earlier this month, fighting near the Barada Valley continued. And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, reported that the government forces launched 15 airstrikes on the area, during their clashes with rebel forces.
The UN is working to repair 120 wells around Damascus, which provide up to one-third of the city’s daily water needs. Since December 22, these wells have been the only source of water for the entire city. The Syrian government has worked with the UN to distribute this water. Nevertheless, many Syrians have said they have received no water. Some have resorted to privately buying water. Others have refrained from showering or washing dishes.
Water—a casualty of war—is not only a neglected topic in the international media, but also, at home. Syria's state-run news is not informing citizens of when and how they might acquire access to fresh water. As one woman stated to the Times: “‘We are fed up with the news of military operations. We want news about water and water supply schedules.’”