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October 5, 2016 – More than 1.5 million people in Aleppo have been without running water for five days, as battles rage around key water infrastructure and power to pumping stations is cut, leaving civilians at risk of water-borne diseases, Oxfam warned today. The international agency called for action to halt attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure as the Syrian-Russian offensive enters its third week.
Residents on both sides of the city, opposition held East Aleppo and government controlled West Aleppo, are relying on water from wells or delivered by trucks, which are unreliable and sometimes contaminated sources.
The two pumping stations Suleiman al-Halabi, which supplies most of the city, and Bab al-Nairab have been shut for several days. Bab al-Nairab was previously damaged in an airstrike carried out by Syrian or Russian air forces, while fighting is ongoing in and around Suleiman al-Halabi where Oxfam has installed a generator to power the station when the national grid is down.
Andy Baker, Oxfam’s lead on the Syria crisis response said: “Deliberately targeting water supply, whether through air strikes on facilities or cutting off water, is a war crime.
“Warring parties must immediately halt attacks on civilian buildings such as schools, hospitals, homes, and water infrastructure.
“They should allow repairs to be made to the water network, including by halting fighting in key areas, in order to pump clean and reliable water to hundreds of thousands of civilians in Aleppo.”
Speaking to Oxfam, an East Aleppo resident, Basma, 35, said “The water network is damaged in some areas, to the point where you can see [bomb] craters filled with water. We are still managing to get water through different means, from local wells. But it’s not safe to go out in the street”.
Walid, 35, from West Aleppo said: “Queuing to get water is a time consuming struggle, and buying water is becoming expensive. You need to pay more to get water first from truckers. Winter is coming and we have no electricity, and fuel is not available. The situation is becoming unbearable.”
Syrian forces and their allies, backed by Russian and Syrian aerial bombardment, launched a military operation on 22 September to retake East Aleppo, where 250,000 people are trapped with no access to aid and facing constant attacks from the air. There are daily reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure
Andy Baker said: “The horrors in Aleppo continue to mount. That the bombardment of the city is being carried out and supported by a permanent member of the UN Security Council, flouting the very resolutions it has passed, makes a mockery of the international system designed to promote peace, stability and respect for human rights. But this cannot be an excuse for inaction on the part of other members of the international community.
“Other permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council should support a resolution demanding an immediate halt to aerial attacks on Aleppo, to allow for aid to be delivered and the ceasefire and political negotiations to be revived.”