Millions Of People In Syria And Iraq Lose Access To Water

BEIRUT — International relief groups warned Monday that millions of people in Syria and Iraq are at risk of losing access to water, energy, and food owing to increasing temperatures, record low water levels due to a lack of rainfall, and dryness.

The two adjacent nations, which have both been ravaged by years of violence and mismanagement, require immediate action to address acute water shortages, according to the organizations. As low water levels affect dams, which in turn affect vital infrastructure, including health facilities, the drought is affecting the energy supply.

More than 12 million people are affected in both nations, with 5 million Syrians directly reliant on the Euphrates River. The lack of water from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, as well as drought, threaten at least 7 million people in Iraq.

Drought has hit 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) of agricultural area, according to the organizations, who also warned that two dams in northern Syria, which give power to 3 million people, are on the verge of being shut down.

The unfolding water crisis, according to Carsten Hansen, regional director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the aid organizations behind the warning, “will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe pushing more into displacement” for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still displaced and many more fleeing for their lives in Syria.

Mercy Corps, the Danish Refugee Council, CARE International, ACTED, and Action Against Hunger were among the other humanitarian organizations.

They cautioned that water-borne illnesses have increased in numerous Syrian provinces, including Hassakah, Aleppo, and Raqqa in the north and Deir el-Zour in the east. Displacement settlements, which house tens of thousands of people displaced by Syria’s 10-year conflict, are among the places.

Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, urged authorities and donor nations to act quickly to save lives. According to her, the current catastrophe comes on top of war, COVID-19, and a terrible economic downturn.

“There is no time to waste,” said Gerry Garvey of the Danish Refugee Council, who added that the water crisis is likely to exacerbate violence in a region that is already unstable.

Severe water shortages have also plagued Lebanon, which is embroiled in the world’s worst economic and financial crises, with more than 4 million people — mostly vulnerable children and families — facing catastrophic water shortages in the coming days, according to the United Nations’ children agency.

Severe fuel shortages in Lebanon have also put a stop to the functioning of thousands of private generators that have long been relied on for energy in the country plagued by corruption.

UNICEF has asked for an immediate restoration of electricity in order to keep water services operational.

The waterways of Lebanon are likewise highly polluted. Activists have long worried about the Litani River, the country’s longest and a significant source of water, agriculture, and hydroelectricity, becoming polluted by sewage and garbage.

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