By: Yasmine Saker and Tamara Abu Sham.
In Idlib, North West of Syria violence continued to escalate over the past weeks. A rocket attack left a UNICEF water tanker damaged with the driver injured and in a state of shock. A few days later armed groups captured the city of Ariha. This did not deter UNICEF from reaching people in need. “We won’t let children and women get thirsty. Nothing can substitute for water” says Mohammad, UNICEF’s water supply contractor in the city. “Pulling out because of a rocket attack would be giving up on civilians in need”.
After the rocket attack, scores of people rushed to the scene with their jerry cans, trying to rescue the small amounts of water dripping from the affected tanker. “That’s how much people are in need, they cannot afford to lose even a few drops” says Madhav Pahari, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist.
Despite the continued violence and amid an increase in security risks, UNICEF continues to provide water in the city where most water plants were destroyed and the network was severely damaged. “Water has been used as a weapon of war. UNICEF stands by the affected children and communities through providing alternative solutions to water accessibility” says Hanaa Singer UNICEF’s Representative in Syria.
Until recently UNICEF was supplying the city of Ariha with 350 cubic meters every day. The city has nearly 40,000 people who are in a desperate need for clean water. Half of the city’s population fled due to the intensifying conflict. UNICEF’s supply of water has become a scarce resource for clean water especially since the pumping station stopped operating.
In addition to providing clear water to civilians in need, UNICEF is building new networks in and rehabilitating damaged water infrastructure.
Back in Idlib, Salim*, the tanker’s driver has now recovered and remains determined to continue trucking water in the city of Ariha “If I don’t do this job, who will?” he says.
*Name has been changed to protect identity