Millions of people in Syria and Iraq no longer have access to water

BEIRUT (AP) – Millions of people in Syria and Iraq risk losing access to water, electricity and food due to rising temperatures, record water levels due to lack of rainfall and drought, international aid groups warned Monday.

The two neighboring countries, both stricken by years of conflict and mismanagement, need swift action to tackle severe water shortages, the groups said. Drought is also disrupting electricity supply, as low water levels impact dams, which in turn impact critical infrastructure, including health facilities.

More than 12 million people in both countries are affected, including 5 million in Syria who depend directly on the Euphrates. In Iraq, the loss of access to water from the Euphrates and the Tigris and drought threatens at least 7 million people.

Some 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) of farmland is facing drought, the groups said, adding that two dams in northern Syria, supplying 3 million people with electricity, are threatened with impending closure.

Carsten Hansen, regional director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the aid groups behind the warning, said that for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still displaced and many more fleeing to save their life in Syria, the ongoing water crisis “will soon become an unprecedented disaster pushing further into displacement.

Other aid groups included Mercy Corps, Danish Refugee Council, CARE International, ACTED and Action Against Hunger.

They warned that several Syrian provinces – including Hassakah, Aleppo and Raqqa in the north and Deir el-Zour in the east – have seen an increase in water-borne illnesses. The areas include camps for internally displaced people housing tens of thousands of people displaced during the 10-year conflict in Syria.

CARE Regional Head for the Middle East and North Africa, Nirvana Shawky, urged authorities and donor governments to act quickly to save lives. The latest crisis comes on top of war, COVID-19 and severe economic decline, she said.

“There is no time to waste,” said Gerry Garvey of the Danish Refugee Council, adding that the water crisis is likely to exacerbate conflicts in an already destabilized region.

Severe water shortages have also hit Lebanon, which is plunged into the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, where more than 4 million people – mostly children and vulnerable families – face severe water shortages. water in the coming days, warned the United Nations children’s agency. Last week.

In Lebanon, severe fuel shortages have also interrupted the work of thousands of private generators long reliant on for electricity in the corrupt country.

UNICEF called for urgent restoration of electricity supply to keep water services running.

The rivers of Lebanon are also heavily polluted. Activists have long warned of pollution levels caused by sewage and waste in the Litani River, the country’s longest and a major source of water, irrigation and hydropower.

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