[This report was issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 14 January 2017.]
Syrian Arab Republic: Wadi Barada
Flash Update No. 1
14 January 2017
- Since 22 December, an estimated 5.5 million people in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from their main source of water supply, the Ein Elfijeh and Barada springs, after those were damaged.
- Following an agreement of 13 January, government and SARC technical teams entered the Wadi Barada area the same day to carry out a damage assessment of the water sources and infrastructure at the Ein Elfijeh spring site with a view to repairing the facility as soon as possible.
- At least 715,000 people living in elevated areas in rural Damascus have not been reached with regular water supply for the last three weeks, while an emergency rotation system for water supply was put in place for other residents of Damascus city living in lower lying areas.
- According to SARC, at least 15,000 people have been displaced from Wadi Barada to neighboring villages since the beginning of the fighting.
- The UN calls on all parties to ensure unrestricted and sustained access in order to restore the provision of water which is essential for the survival and well-being of the civilian population.
Wadi Barada (the Barada valley) is located in rural Damascus, some 25 kilometers south-west of the capital, and is under the control of Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs). Most roads leading to Wadi Barada and the surrounding heights are under control of the Syrian Government. Heavy clashes were ongoing up to 11 January, and an agreement between both parties was reportedly on 13 January.
On 22 December, water reservoirs were reportedly contaminated with diesel and organic solvents. In the following days, conflict escalated, resulting with the main pipeline being damaged and ever since, an estimated 5.5 million people in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from their two primary sources of water supply, after Ein Elfijeh and Barada springs. Previously, the two water sources satisfied 70 per cent of the demand for clean and safe water in and around Damascus.
Within Damascus city the Water Authority has initiated an emergency rationing system under which each neighborhood receives water through the supply network every five to six days for three to four hours. This water is provided from groundwater wells located across the city, however, the water provided is only enough to meet about 30 per cent of the daily water needs. The Water Authority has plans to scale its daily provision, currently 140,000 - 150,000 m3, to 180,000–200,000 m3 per day, or enough to meet an estimated 40 per cent of water needs.
Some 715,000 people living in elevated areas are not covered through this rationing system and have been without access to water in their homes for nearly three weeks. This has led many to rely on the purchase of sometimes untreated water from private vendors at high prices, putting additional financial strain on families and increasing risks of waterborne diseases.
According to information received, government and SARC technical teams entered the Wadi Barada area on 13 January to carry out a damage assessment of water sources and infrastructure at the Ein Elfijeh spring site with a view to repairing the facility as soon as possible. The UN team is following up with the water authority and SARC, and stands ready to enter the area and provide additional support to ensure the swift repair of the water infrastructure.
According to SARC, fighting in Wadi Barada since 15 December has displaced at least 15,000, mostly to Al-Rawda, Al-Tkiyeh, Zabadani Plain and the Dimas areas. SARC in conjunction with the UN and other partners is leading on the response to those displaced.
The UN’s request to reach Wadi Barada with a humanitarian convoy under the January plan had been denied.
- UNICEF, in coordination with the Water Authority, is supporting the preparations for repair works in Wadi Barada, pending approval to access the site. The team stands ready to enter the area and provide additional support to ensure the swift repair of the water infrastructure.
- UNICEF is providing around 15,000 liters of fuel (almost 38% of total need) on a daily basis to water production centers in Barzeh, Zahra and Qaboun. As of 10 January, a cumulative total of 71,000 liters had already been delivered.
- UNICEF is supporting the repair and maintenance of 65 water pumps across Damascus, and additionally delivered two generators (capacity of 250 & 400 kVA) and 30 km of cables.
- Daily water trucking activities to schools is ongoing, and the intervention has to date reached 95 schools in one week, benefitting around 85,000 children.
- Since 2 January, daily 1000 m3 of water are being trucked per day to Al-Kisweh City in Rural Damascus, which has also been affected by the water cut. A total of 9,000 m3 of water have been delivered to date.
- WHO is providing chlorine detection equipment, conductivity meters, and bacteriological contamination kits.
- WHO also reinforced the surveillance program of communicable diseases and rumor verification in Damascus, with daily communications with surveillance team at MoH. WHO additionally prepositioned medicines and kits in Damascus for a rapid response in case of any potential outbreak.
- In cooperation with the Water Authority, the UN is conducting a public campaign to raise awareness on safe water consumption practices.
- SARC is leading the response to Wadi Barada displacement with support from UN, NGOs and ICRC. Food, nutrition and health items, education material and winter clothes and blankets have been made available to those displaced.