Water provision leads to better humanitarian access in Syria’s most isolated communities

Published: 4 August 2014 12:43 CET

By Viviane Tou'meh, SARC

Ahmad Mayen al-Ali is a civil engineer specialising in water provision for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent

I started my work at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in 2005.  I was working with other SARC volunteers, receiving and registering Iraqi refugees and distributing relief items to them.

In 2006, thousands of Lebanese nationals came to Syria as a result of the war. We responded to their needs by providing a range of services such as food parcels, first aid, psychosocial support, water and sanitation, as well as hygiene promotion services.

After the beginning of the conflict in my country, I had finished my university studies as a civil engineer. I worked as a trainee in a number of offices and engineering companies working on the preparation of studies and supervision of the implementation of projects. In the end, I have been appointed as an engineer to supervise the Jughjugh river project in Hasakeh and a member in the supervising committee of Euphrates river project. In June last year I undertook a specialist Water in Emergencies training course in Nairobi organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In the third year of the conflict in Syria, I was appointed by SARC as a Water Affairs engineer at the al-Hasakeh branch. We increased our water team at the branch to ten volunteers to help deal with the growing water problems. The Norwegian Red Cross is helping to support the team.

The water team provides water services to people in emergencies such as clean drinking water. We install large capacity water tanks and fill them with water from tanker trucks.

The water team works with the local water boards in Hasakeh together with the ICRC and other international organizations. We work to provide electrical and mechanical supplies to ensure the water stations keep pumping, and provide chemical supplies for water purification. We also support the local water boards with emergency repairs and maintenance and essential spare parts for water pumping stations to improve provision. In the communities we distribute water-treatment products; chlorine tablets that can be used at home.

Everyday the water team in Hasakeh assesses the needs inside collective shelters and works closely with the ICRC to provide a range of services such as installing water tanks and pumps, providing kitchen equipment, baths and hygiene supplies. We also do electrical maintenance and help with the upkeep of various housing services.

In the beginning of this year, the team started working on other services such as pesticides spraying, in addition to providing and equipment important supplies necessary to handle out the spray process.

A stepping stone

The southern areas of al-Hasakeh is one of the poorest areas of the country. There is a lack of clean drinking water and it is also one of the most affected areas by drought.

Since the middle of March 2013, violence in the area has meant it is often inaccessible.

On 28 of October 2013, with coordination of all parties on the ground and after taking all necessary approvals, the SARC water team in al-Hasakeh conducted a field visit to al-Shedadi city, the center of the southern area. During this visit, the team conducted a comprehensive and precise assessment for the city which included: general assessment, water and sanitation services assessment and health assessment of the spread of disease.

Three volunteers conducted this visit with an engineer of water affairs from Hasakeh branch. The volunteers distributed water purification tablets and also made sure people were aware of the most effective way to use them. An engineer conducted interviews with local community and was briefed on the desalination plant work and accessories needed for this plant.

Accordingly, the water team in al-Hasakeh was the first team who entered this region in more than seven months, providing a stepping stone for other SARC teams to bring more aid into the area.