• Olga Borzenkova | Communications Officer

Northwest Syria - “The water situation was tragic.”, recounts Mustafa, a resident of a camp in Norwest Syria. The man and his ten family members intimately understand the challenges of living without access to safe and clean water. 

In February 2023, after earthquakes dealt a further blow, crippling vital water infrastructure, they remained without water for three straight weeks. 

“We had to gather multiple families to afford a full tank, which comprises 40 barrels. We simply couldn’t afford it. If there weren’t enough families to chip in, the vendor would simply not come to refill the tank.”, he confessed. 

Mustafa standing in the camp he lives in, Norwest Syria. Photo: IOM 2023

Over the past thirteen years, conflict has ravaged Northwest Syria, leaving scars on both the land and its people. Despite the adversity, displaced individuals like Mustafa cling to hope for better days, where access to basic necessities like safe and clean water is no longer a daily struggle. However, the water scarcity crisis in Syria has reached a breaking point, exacerbated by the aftermath of earthquakes. 

Mustafa's camp, like many others, faced prolonged water shortages due to damage sustained by a crucial elevated water tank during the earthquakes. But amidst the despair, they remained hopeful.  

Reconstrution of an elevated water tank in Norwest Syria. Photo: IOM 2023

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), through its partner in Idleb, Northwest Syria, managed to reconstruct three elevated water tanks, restoring the availability of clean water for over 67,500 earthquake-affected communities. 

For Mustafa and his family, the reconstruction of the water tanks marked a turning point. Now, they have access to safe water every day, providing a sense of relief and security in the face of adversity. Yet, Mustafa's story is just one among many in Northwest Syria. 

Mustafa and his family now have access to safe water every day. Photo: IOM 2023

In another camp, Omar shares a similar struggle to support his family of eight. However, Omar’s desire for life has not wavered. He gives special care to his nine-year-old son, who suffers from brain atrophy and partial paralysis, and his mother, who can no longer stand or walk.  

Omar sighs in relief, now having his water tank regularly refilled thanks to IOM's efforts. He can also feel assured about the quality of water, thanks to desludging conducted by IOM’s partner. 

Omar’s son fetches water from a freshly refilled water tank. Photo: IOM 2023

The reconstruction of water tanks and the implementation of water trucking and desludging initiatives have brought a lifeline to communities like Mustafa's and Omar's. However, the journey towards sustainable access to water is far from over. With summers and extreme temperatures that have characterized the season, access to water consumption and public health risks are a constant threat, making water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions crucial more than ever. 

Beyond addressing families’ basic needs, IOM aims to mitigate public health risks by improving WASH facilities at healthcare facilities. Improving infection prevention in healthcare facilities is crucial. Ensuring proper procedures for isolating, segregating, and disposing of infectious medical waste is essential. By implementing effective waste management practices, we can prevent water contamination and mitigate the risk of disease outbreaks such as cholera. 

As they continue to rebuild their lives amidst adversity, Mustafa's and Omar's stories remind us of the critical importance of access to safe and clean water, as a basic need for human health and well-being. Everyone deserves access to water, including people on the move. 

IOM’s WASH interventions in Northwest Syria are made possible through the generous support of the European Union, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, German Federal Foreign Office and USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.  

Written by Olga Borzenkova, Communications Officer, IOM Türkiye