Conflict is what drove Syrians from their homes. Scarcity is what prevents them from rebuilding their lives.
In Idlib and northern Aleppo, water is a scarce commodity and a daily challenge for the population. The EU and GOAL are supporting water stations with fuel, repairs and maintenance, ensuring 250,000 people have access to safe water.
It has made a huge difference for Abu Reza*, a father of 7, who says that accessing water “was one of the hardest aspects of our life in displacement.”
After holding out as long as he could, Abu Reza* decided, 2 years ago, to leave his home in the mountains of Idlib’s southern countryside. The area was under constant fire, and he could no longer guarantee the safety of his children and granddaughter.
“Death would have been easier than to leave our home, vineyards, figs, and olives. Our livelihoods,” Abu Reza says. “Before we were forced to flee, we lived from what our land gave us.”
The family made their way to Syria’s northwest border with Turkey. Crossing the Al Roj plain, they reached the village of Al Baliya, where they were welcomed by an old acquaintance.
“My friend helped us to get this unfinished house. Our new shelter is simple, but at least we have a roof over our heads,” says Abu Reza.
With their new house situated among the rocky hills surrounding the village, getting enough water for their daily needs soon proved to be a major struggle for the family.
The village was serviced through ‘water trucking’, clean water for daily consumption brought by trucks to those in need. And Abu Reza’s children were sent to fetch water with jerricans from the centre of the village.
“They had to carry water to our home from a very long distance,” says Abu Reza. “Not knowing the source of the water we consumed, or if it was safe, and the possibility that our children might contract diseases from contaminated water, became an additional worry that haunted us constantly.”
Providing access to safe and clean water
According to the United Nations, more than 50% of the population of Northwest Syria lacks access to piped water, relying on alternative sources such as trucked water.
In many cases, the water trucks only service central locations and residents who live further away need to transport the water they buy by the barrel themselves. Trucked water is not only expensive but is also unregulated and can be unsafe to drink if untreated.
Today, with EU humanitarian funding, GOAL guarantees the upkeep of Al Baliya’s water delivery infrastructure and supports the operation of the water pumping station.
In addition to emergency repairs and rehabilitation of the water network, the organisation also makes sure families in the vicinity of the village are supplied with piped potable water.
“The provision of clean piped water gave us great psychological comfort,” says Abu Reza. “We know that the water we drink is safe, so we can protect our children from communicable diseases.”
The transition from water trucking to network delivery has brought immediate relief and early recovery opportunities for the villagers.
“We are able to use the money we used to pay to buy water from trucks to get school supplies for our children and buy food,” says Abu Reza.
“We used to limit ourselves to bread and other staples, but now we can buy the things our children need, like fruits or vegetables, too.”
According to the head of Al Baliya village’s Local Council, Abu Nasser, thanks to the project, 90% of the families in the village now get piped water.
In addition, houses on the outskirts, which are not connected to the network, were given water tanks filled through the main supply lines.
“The project helped solve one of the biggest problems in the village and relieved many households of a heavy burden,” he says.
“Our water problem has a long history that began before the conflict, but in the early years of the conflict, our water station was bombed by warplanes and suffered damage.”
The council hoped to solve the problem by collecting money from the villagers and buying diesel fuel to run the water station generator, but many were unable to contribute. And only better-off families could afford buying sufficient trucked water.
“This project has given us and our children a new life, alleviating our suffering from war and displacement,” says Abu Reza. “I hope the project will continue because stopping water access would cause further suffering for us and all the children in the village.”
* The names of the individuals interviewed or photographed for this story were changed.
Story by the GOAL Syria Communications and Media Team
Publication date: 27/09/2022