Aid groups warn water crisis threaten more than 12 million in Syria and Iraq

More than 12 million people in Syria and Iraq are reported to be losing access to water, food, electricity and health services.

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Rising temperatures, low levels of rainfall, and drought are depriving people of access to drinking and agricultural water.

Overall, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and decreasing water flows into the Euphrates River is contributing to the crisis. The rate of water in the Euphrates, which runs through both Syria and Iraq, has fallen from 500 cubic meters per second in January to 214 cubic meters per second in June 2020, according to the UN.

Due to dependency on water to generate electricity through dams, essential infrastructure including health facilities face disruption of services.  

A report published by 13 aid groups and organizations on ReliefWeb revealed Syria is facing its worst drought in 70 years. More than five million people in Syria directly depend on the Euphrates River. Two dams located in northern Syria serve three million people and face the risk of imminent closure. In Hasakah, Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir Ez Zor and several other displacement camps, an increase in waterborne diseases such as diarrhea has been seen.

In Iraq, at least seven million people are threatened by reduced access to water. Large swathes of farmland, fisheries, power production and drinking water sources have been depleted of water. It is estimated that wheat production will go down by 70 percent in the Ninewa governorate and 50 percent in the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq due to drought. Farmers have been unable to harvest wheat.

The Regional Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Carsten Hansen, warns that “the unfolding water crisis will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe pushing more into displacement.”

CARE’s Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa, Nirvana Shawky, states that the water crisis “comes on top of the conflict, COVID-19 and severe economic decline.”

Other aid groups joining the warning and call for emergency and flexible funding include: ACTED, Action Against Hunger, Mercy Corps, People in Need, Première Urgence Internationale, War Child, Help, Women Rehabilitation Organization, VIYAN Organization, Al Rakeezeh Foundation for Relief and Development.

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