Two Million People in Aleppo Don’t Have Access to Running Water: U.N.

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Rebel fighters gather in Aleppo, Syria, August 6. The U.N. urged a ceasefire on Tuesday after Aleppo residents have gone four days without access to running water. Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

The humanitarian crisis is escalating in the Syrian city of Aleppo, as two million people have lost their access to running water.

An escalation of fighting and attacks has damaged the electricity networks that are needed to pump water supplies throughout the city, according to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF.  The electricity transmission station responsible for powering the water supply in eastern and western parts of Aleppo was struck by attacks on July 31. While authorities were able to use an alternative power line on August 4, that was damaged in less than 24 hours during continued fighting and has resulted in a lack of running water, UNICEF said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Children and families in Aleppo are facing a catastrophic situation. These cuts are coming amid a heat wave, putting children at a grave risk of waterborne diseases,” Hanaa Singer, UNICEF representative in Syria, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Getting clean water running again cannot wait for the fighting to stop. Children’s lives are in serious danger.”

The U.N.’s call for a ceasefire comes on the same day the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, were due to brief the U.N. Security Council on the situation in Aleppo. On Saturday, opposition fighters broke the two-week government siege in the eastern part of the city, opening a corridor to their allies in the west, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

The city has now been without running water for four days. UNICEF said it’s delivering emergency drinking water via trucks to around 325,000 people per day in the western part of the city. In eastern Aleppo, as many as 300,000 people—a third of them children—are relying on potentially unsafe drinking water from wells. UNICEF does not currently have access to eastern Aleppo.

Urgent repairs are needed in order to bring safe drinking water to Aleppo’s residents, UNICEF said. If running water is not back soon, civilians “will be forced to resort to unsafe water sources,” the organization said in a statement.

“We urge parties to the conflict to immediately allow safe access for technicians to conduct critical repairs to the electricity and water systems,” said Singer. “This is the only way people all over the city can have safe drinking water. Civilian infrastructure like electricity and water pumping stations must never be attacked.”

Aleppo has recently seen some of the worst attacks on its health care system since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011. Six hospitals were struck by airstrikes between July 23 and July 31, resulting in a number of deaths, including four infants at a pediatric center, according to U.S.-based organization Physicians For Human Rights. In southwestern Syria, starvation and malnutrition in the village of Madaya has resulted in an increase in the number of miscarriages and suicide attempts, while children are beginning to experience stunted growth and skin rashes.