Syrian Refugees Flee War To Face Water Crisis
September 4, 2015
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working to protect the health and well-being of more than 4,300 of vulnerable Syrian refugees with improved access to safe water at two informal settlements in Lebanon. At El Rahmeh, a northern Lebanon settlement of 350 Syrian refugee families, IOCC drilled water wells and installed pumps, storage tanks, and pipelines to channel clean water to communal kitchens, showers and latrines constructed by IOCC. The newly installed sewer line serves the sanitation needs of both the camp and the neighboring community of 1,500 Lebanese residents. In Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, around 450 Syrian families living at the Bar Elias refugee settlement also have access to safe water from communal water storage tanks as well as a newly constructed sanitation system that carries waste away from their homes to large capacity septic tanks.
Each day, thousands of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon’s informal settlements face a growing risk of getting sick each time they take a drink of water. Contracting an illness from poor quality water sources increases sharply during hot summer months when the heat creates an ideal breeding ground for waterborne diseases. The threat is especially deadly to children, who make up half of the 1.2 million refugees living in Lebanon.
“Lebanon is stretched to its limits with the addition of more than one million Syrian refugees now living here,” stated Ruba Khoury, IOCC Country Representative for Lebanon. “In the absence of official camps, refugees have settled in more than 1,000 host communities throughout the country. The increase in refugee numbers has overburdened national water and wastewater systems. Without access to safe water or sewage systems, the refugees are continuously confronted with diseases related to poor hygiene. IOCC’s efforts to bring safe water and sanitation to the refugees in these two settlements has improved their quality of life, and eased some of the burden on the country’s infrastructure.”
Muhal, a 28-year-old refugee from the Syrian city of Qusayr, stands under a scorching summer sun as she fills several plastic water buckets from a cluster of large storage tanks. She doesn’t mind the heat as long as she has access to clean water close to her tent. “It has improved our condition a great deal,” said the former nurse. “Before we got the tanks, we had to walk several miles to collect water, and it wasn’t even safe to drink.” “We desperately needed water,” added Abdu, 33, a Syrian refugee from Homs and father of four children ages 18 months to 12 years. “Now water is still precious to us, but we know it is safe.”
Along with ensuring better access to clean water, IOCC hygiene educators also meet with refugee mothers and children regularly to share basic health tips. “Change your undergarments daily, wash well with soap and water, and hang to dry in the sun to kill germs” is the written message that an IOCC hygiene promotion field officer shares on this day with the Syrian refugees.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered $534 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in more than 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 140 churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy, and a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.–based secular and faith-based organizations working to improve the lives of the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations. To learn more about IOCC, visit iocc.org.