By Kumar Tiku
Homs, Syria – A solar powered water heating system is improving living conditions for 220 people who have been forced to relocate to a shelter in Homs. 35-year old Manal, her husband and four children live at the Salkany shelter, and she says. “The solar water heater is a boon for us for as long as it does not break down. It has been good so far”.
The shelter is run by Child Care Services, a local NGO that runs 12 similar dwellings in Homs for victims of the large-scale internal displacement in the city. The building has been voluntarily provided by a local Syrian builder in solidarity with the needs of his fellow countrymen.
The rooftop solar water heater, supported by UNICEF, has a capacity of 1,800 litres that is piped into each of the one-room shelters for the day’s washing and cleaning purposes.
Manal says ever since the family abandoned their family home in the Old city of Homs two years ago, they have had to be displaced four times. “First we came to Al Qusour neighbourhood of Homs. From there we went to live in an area in rural Damascus. When the rent became unaffordable, we migrated back to Homs and took an accommodation in the Abraj area here. Finally, we landed at this shelter as the accommodation here comes free. What is more, we do not have to spend on electricity.”
Lama Atassi, project manager for the Hygiene care project of the Child Care Society says that when the shelter opened in late 2011, the NGO could not even provide a water storage facility, let alone any means of water heating. “We used to bring a water tanker and the shelter residents would line up to collect their share of water. Each family had invested in their personal electric water heaters. Within the confines of a small room that serves as home for each family, many of whom have small children, the electric water heaters were hazardous and unsafe for the children. Long and recurrent power outages meant that families had to go without hot water for long durations.”
The new water heating system is helping provide on-demand hot water, save power costs for the shelter residents and keep children safe.