| Abstract|| |
Availability of adequate water and access to sanitation is essential to life, health, dignity, and considered as a fundamental human right. Ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in the displacement of millions of people into the neighboring countries which has put tremendous pressure on already limited water resources. This limited water supply (which is also related to the poor sanitation) has increased the risk of water-borne diseases in the refugee population. Further, this increased demand of water and gap in supply has the potential to increase the tension between refugee population and local population. In the present article, we review the role of water, water needs, challenges to supply adequate water, and the effect of water needs and supply on the displaced and host population in the region.
Keywords: Refugee population, Syria, water
|How to cite this article:|
Agrawal A. Syrian refugee population and hosting countries: Understating the water needs and role of water on their relationship. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2018;11:37-40
|How to cite this URL:|
Agrawal A. Syrian refugee population and hosting countries: Understating the water needs and role of water on their relationship. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Feb 29];11:37-40. Available from: http://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2018/11/2/37/272544
| Introduction|| |
The war in Syria has not only affected the stability in the region but becoming a threat to the security in neighboring regions. This ongoing Syrian crisis has resulted in the forced displacement of millions of Syrian families which has taken shelter in neighboring countries (and this number is likely to grow).,, As per the estimates, there are a total 4,807,700 Syrian refugees, and according to UNHCR, 2.1 million Syrian refugees stay in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, 2.7 million Syrian refugees stay in Turkey, and 29,000 Syrian refugees live in North African region., This unexpected and rapid increase in the effective population in this region has put tremendous strain on the infrastructure including already stressed water resources and sanitations facilities.,, In the present article, we review the role of water, water needs, challenges to supply adequate water, and the effect of water needs and supply the displaced and host population in the region.
| Water Crisis, Gap in Demand, and Supply|| |
Availability of adequate water and access to sanitation is essential to life, health, dignity and considered as a fundamental human right. Apart from the potable uses of water, water is necessary for handwashing, bathing, household cleaning, laundry, flushing toilets, and for agriculture and to fulfill the needs of livestock, etc. Recent increase in violence in the Jordan has forced them to close the borders, thus trapping the Syrian refugees within Syria, resulting in an increase in the internally displaced population in Syria. Vital infrastructure has been compromised or destroyed, resulting in a lack of shelter and energy sources, deterioration of water and sanitation services, food insecurity, and serious overcrowding in some areas. It is estimated that up to in urban areas, 86% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line, and this has added to the hardship of the refugee population, particularly who depend on the commercial sources for safe water supply to fulfill their needs.
Not only the water scarcity but also accommodation of the refugees beyond the capacity of the camps can result in the shortage of water supply. For example, Zaatari camp which is located in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was designed to accommodate approximately 22,000 Syrian refugees. However, later on, the camp was expanded to accommodate up to 100,000 and thus putting challenges to fulfill the needs including water supply and sanitation.
| Struggle to Access Water|| |
The neighboring countries (i.e., Jordan and Lebanon) who are hosting the displaced refugee population from Syria are already listed as one of the most water scarcity regions in the world where local population struggle to access safe and adequate water.,,, For example, the sources of drinking water supply to the refugee population (as well as to the local population) in Lebanon include dug well, bottled water, and trucked water supply, respectively, and the proportionate use from different sources varies on the dwellings the population lives (also depends on the financial capacity).
A number of factors have affected the sustainability of water supply; these include rapid growth in the population size, inadequate rainfall,, and damage to the infrastructure, leading to disruption in the water supply and rising cost of the water supply. This water scarcity is further aggravated by the suboptimal management of water resources which leads to substantial losses. Refugees who flee their homes not only struggle for safety and survival but also struggle to access adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities which have the potential to compromise their health.
In many regions where the households get water supply through piped water find water shortage (particularly in warm weather) due to old and leaking water pipes and illegal siphoning of water from these pipes resulting in a reduction in effective water supplies. Ongoing conflict has resulted in a compromise in power supply, shortage of chemical necessary for water treatment, fuel shortages, and damage to necessary infrastructure contributing cumulatively to worsen the water shortages. Further, the shortage and increasing gaps in funding to support the refugee population affected the water supply in this region.,
| Health and Economic Concerns|| |
Limited water supply (which is also related to the poor sanitation) can increase the risk of water-borne diseases in the refugee population., The risk of water-borne diseases is increased in hot summer and children are most vulnerable for this increased risk., It has been found that water shortage can make people despair and lead to psychological stress including depression. In comparison to the local population, refugee population travel more distances to access the water sources. It has been shown that accessible and adequate water supply (i.e., through WASH interventions) has helped to reduce sexual violence (as the young girls and women do not need to travel longer distances); this reduction in traveling has improved the nutrition of the women, children are able to attend schools, and the time saved in traveling is being used for more creative activities.
| Efforts to Support Demand|| |
We need to remember that this area is located in one of the most water-scarce areas (making both refugees as well as host population vulnerable for inadequate water supply). Groundwater is the main source of potable water supply in the Middle East, and this water needs to be managed in such a way that not only it should be available to the refugee population but also to the host community. While planning for the camp locations, planners should plan these camps in places where enough water is available and adequate for both refugee and host community. UNICEF is supporting the municipal water departments and local contractors to make sure continuous supply of safe and adequate water in most affected areas, i.e., rural Damascus, Idlib, Deir Ezzor, Homs, Aleppo, and al-Raqqa and distributing hygiene kits in these affected areas. UNICEF is further extending its support and arranges the financial aid to repair and rehabilitate the community-based water systems in schools, child-friendly, and temporary learning spaces so that more than 50,000 children can be benefitted.
| Constraints|| |
Although public facilities (i.e., WASH blocks) can follow the minimum humanitarian standards, still the users may not use them because of risk to personal safety and privacy concerns. Accessing water in these water scare countries can be an expensive and challenging as it needs boreholes up to 500 m depth. Apart from the adequate water supply, security concerns can also restrict the access to water sources, particularly in conflict zones and hamper the relief efforts as well. Growing number of refugee population and increasing needs of the local population has forced Jordan to withdraw more water from shared resources with neighboring countries which not only cause the exhaustion of the resources but also can increase the inter-border tension.
| Efforts to Find Solutions|| |
To provide sustainable and cost-efficient essential water services in these one of the most water-scarce regions, there shall be a need for an investment in infrastructure. However, if the initial cost can be managed and the required infrastructure can be placed and handed over to the community it will be relatively easy to maintain these services. In addition, these facilities can be supported by humanitarian organizations through communal WASH blocks, communal water tap points, and by private tanks., Apart from the increasing the resources to get water, additional emphasis needs to be given to upgrade the infrastructure to manage water supply in all the regions, particularly areas where a rapid increase in the population size has been seen (it can be refugee or local population or overall population).
While planning for the provision of water in refugee population settings, there shall be a need to make sure that the water is properly stored, should easily be accessible, adequately available, and equitably distributed (through properly laid out water points); otherwise, it can become the potential source of power and can result in sexual abuse or commercial exploitation. While developing safe water facilities, it is equally important to remove the wastewater which is important not only to reduce the communicable diseases but also to reduce the contamination of the clean water supply sources.
| Most Important Is Reducing Losses|| |
It has been estimated that approximately 7.6 billion liters' water is lost through leaking pipes in Jordan per year which is enough to fulfill the needs of 2.6 million people. Another option to help to fulfill the needs of water supply is the conservation of the water resources which includes installation of rainwater catchments and gray water treatment systems which shall help to reduce the burden on local water network systems. People can be taught to use water judiciously, special taps can be installed to reduce the losses, and water can be recycled for reuse.
| Challenges|| |
Sustainable supply of clean and safe water is important and equally important to educate people so that it should be kept in a clean and safe manner. There shall also be a need to provide adequate water to support the agriculture household as any compromise can negatively affect these families and ultimately national economy. This can affect the capacity of the national to support the refugee as well as host population and affect the social stability. Areas experiencing groundwater overdraft and declining water tables before the Syrian refugee influx are already water-stressed and are not ideal campsites. The lack of well-organized camps for the refugee population can result in the wider dispersion of the refugee population in the region, thus increasing the complexities to fulfill their needs and simultaneously requiring considerable investments.
| Conclusion|| |
It can be anticipated that, in the coming years, the ongoing conflict will lead to increased number of displaced population which shall be further complicated by increase in the population of the host countries. Ongoing environmental issues shall further reduce the water supply in these regions which are already having inadequate water supply and it is not enough to support the population. The UN is giving a top priority to resolve the issues in Syria and has urged all the parties to come together to end the ongoing conflict. Long-lasting solutions shall depend on identification of the obstacles, identification of the supporting international agencies, partnership with the strong local organizations, and implementing strategies to reach the people who are in a need of assistance. Increase in influx of displaced refugee population from Syria into the Lebanon has resulted in hardship for both the population to fulfill their basic needs including adequate access to safe water. The major recommendations to ensure sustainable solutions shall need adequate funding, careful planning and meticulous execution, and alleviation of the underlying factors responsible for the crisis.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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Dr. Amit Agrawal
Department of Neurosurgery, Narayana Medical College and Hospital, Chinthareddypalem, Nellore - 524 003, Andhra Pradesh
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None