Millions in Aleppo left "without water" as fighting intensifies
UNICEF said on Saturday that “intense attacks” had damaged the Bab al-Nayrab water pumping station which supplies water to the estimated 300,000 people currently residing in besieged rebel-held East Aleppo. The UN relief agency added that violence in the area had prevented repair teams from reaching the station.
Another pumping station, the Suleiman al-Halabi station, also located in the east of the city, has been switched off “in retaliation”, the humanitarian organisation said, cutting water to the one and a half million people located in the regime-controlled west of the city.
“Our biggest concern is water-born diseases. We know water in the east of the city is quite contaminated, more than in the west. We are on the verge of catastrophe,” said Juliette Touma, UNICEF’s regional chief of communications for the Middle East and North Africa speaking to The New Arab.
In particular Touma said that a lack of access to clean water could lead to the spread of health conditions including diarrhoea, scabies, and hepatitis.
“This is not a new thing. It has been happening in Aleppo for a year, children are most vulnerable,” continued Touma.
Both the Bab al-Nayrab and Suleiman al-Halabi pumping stations went out of order on Friday leaving residents of Aleppo with no access to running water through the public network.
|“Our biggest concern is water-born diseases. We know water in the east of the city is quite contaminated, more than in the west. We are on the verge of catastrophe.”
Juliette Touma, UNICEF regional chief of communications for the Middle East and North Africa
Touma described the shutting down of the two stations as “tit-for-tat” but declined to comment on which armed groups were responsible.
“It is difficult to know exactly what happened. But at the end of the day access to water is a fundamental right. Water should not be used as a weapon for political and military gain.”
Since a Russian-US brokered ceasefire collapsed in a spectacular fashion on Monday after a deadly attack on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy in the Aleppo suburb of Urum al-Kubra, days after a US strike 'mistakenly' killed scores of regime soldiers, intense fighting has returned to Aleppo.
The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad announced on Thursday that it was undertaking a new offensive on the city and rebel-held districts of Aleppo have been subjected to fierce bombardment. Pro-government troops are also gaining ground with the Associated Press reporting on Saturday that several attacks on the previously rebel-held Handarat camp, located north of the city, had led to its capture.
A day earlier, on Friday, the Syrian Civil Defence, popularly known as the White Helmets, announced that three of its centres in the city had been targeted in air raids amid alarming, rising death tolls.
Speaking to The New Arab on Friday Ibrahim a-Hajj, a White Helmets press officer, said that 90 civilians had been killed in the previous 24 hours, with hundreds more injured, and many more trapped under rubble.
Over 150 air raids were recorded to have hit rebel-held Aleppo on Friday targeting 15 neighbourhoods, with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting the involvement of Russian jets.
|The bombing continues throughout the day and the night. This is a call for help: stop the planes and take them away from our skies.”
Mohamad Abu Rajab, a medic based in rebel-held East Aleppo
The violence shows no sign of abating.
Mohammad Abu Rajab, a nurse working in a Syrian Arab Medical Society funded hospital in east Aleppo told The New Arab on Saturday that staff had been overwhelmed by the constant influx of new patients.
“All the staff in the hospital are overworked,” said Abu Rajab who sent The New Arab a series of photographs showing the limp, pale corpses of children killed in airstrikes that are too graphic for publication.
Humanitarian organisations have criticised what are widely seen as indiscriminate bombing campaigns perpetrated by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies over Aleppo.
On Friday Doctors Without Borders released a statement saying that in the last week hospitals the organisation supports in east Aleppo had reported considerable increases in the number of wounded patients being admitted.
Carlos Francisco, Doctors Without Borders head of mission for Syria, said the organisation was deeply concerned about the effects on civilians of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in a city adding that “no aid including urgent medical supplies is allowed to enter. We are deeply worried by the high number of wounded reported by the hospitals we support and also know that in many areas the wounded and sick have nowehere to go at all – they are simply left to die.”
Abu Rajab said that current regime bombing campaigns over east Aleppo were “the worst it had ever been.”
“So many children have died. The bombing continues throughout the day and the night. This is a call for help: stop the planes and take them away from our skies,” said Abu Rajab noting that cluster bombs in addition to other forms of munition had been used in recent Syrian regime attacks on the city.
The east Aleppo-based medic explained that the hospital he worked in relied on an underground well for water supplies. Water attained from the well, he explained, is pumped through a rudimentary filtration system before its use in the hospital.
However, Abu Rajab said the situation was far from ideal, stating that despite the filtration system he sometimes had concerns over the cleanliness of the water supply from the well.
“What can we do? There is no alternative. Civilians here have experienced so much suffering. Now, the airplanes do not leave the skies and there is no water.”