Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Before the crisis, most Syrians had access to water supply networks and sanitation. The WASH systems were owned by the state which pumped water from wells, springs or surface bodies, relying on electricity and generators to run the system. The sanitation system was generally functioning before the crisis. Damage and poor maintenance of waste removal systems has caused garbage to accumulate in public spaces and sewage to pollute drinking water.  The water system itself has also deteriorated with an estimated 35 percent of water infrastructure damaged or in need of rehabilitation, according to a 2014 assessment. Fuel shortages prevent generators from running and this, in turn, inhibits the pumping of water. The shortage of water has made people develop coping mechanisms, such as rain water collection, families using water from irrigation channels or reduced daily water consumption. The lack of water increases the risk of disease and dehydration, both of which can be life threatening. With limited water resources, water prices soar, leading to financial constraints for people to access clean water.

During late 2013, Bihar began its first intervention in supporting rehabilitation of local water networks infrastructure in Syria. Three projects were launched in eight different villages, in the sub-districts of Jandairis, Afrin and Sharan. The villages’ access to water was restricted by poorly maintained water pumps, missing generators and a lack of fuel. Bihar assisted the villages by restoring the generators, water pumps and water networks, allowing the system to function again. Diesel was also supplied for a three-month implementation period, during which inhabitants received water for free. Now, a system is in place for citizens to pay a fair price for water.

The health and dignity of the Syrian people are at risk due to poor hygienic conditions. Soap and detergent is vital for prevention of diseases, especially in densely populated areas. The lack of female sanitary protection creates discomfort among women and adolescent girls, who sometimes have to rely on unclean fabrics for protection. The lack for diapers is putting infants at risk of getting infections from unclean or improper diapers.

Hygiene should not only be regarded as a tool for preventing diseases, but also understood in terms of self-respect and community resilience. Bihar has handed out both hygiene kits and diapers to meet the needs among refugees and internally displaced people. Bihar’s distribution of non-food items has benefited people in Aleppo governorate, including Aleppo city, and the Afrin region as well as in Suruc in Turkey.