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CLEAN WATER RESTORES LIFE TO FAMILIES IN NORTHERN SYRIAN CAMPS

Binaa team member detecting water quality in the camp

Nearly 20,000 families in 143 camps in Northern Syria gain access to clean water, thanks to the BINAA initiative 

Access to clean water is a basic human right and an indispensable necessity for life. This constitutes the right of every individual, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable water and sanitation for personal use.   

As basic as it seems, this right is unavailable to many worldwide, especially people affected by war and conflict. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that, in more than half of the refugee camps worldwide, the recommended daily water minimum of 20 litres of water per person is not provided. 

The IDP camps in Northern Syria are no exception. For hundreds of thousands of camp inhabitants, securing their daily clean drinking water needs is a daunting challenge. Over the past decade, these camps have turned into massive human reservoirs that require mounting resources of clean water. 

The scarcity of clean water makes life in these camps unbearable. With no other option available, tens of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) are forced to resort to unsafe resources for drinking water, which has contributed in the past years to disease outbreaks and malnutrition, especially among children. 

Saad Eddin Othman is an IDP who settled in one of these camps, after he and his family were displaced from their village of Sharia in the Hama Governorate. For Saad Eddin, the lack of basic services, facilities, habitable tents, and clean drinking water presented an ongoing challenge: “We pitched the tent in late winter over wet land and mud... We had no drinking water, no bathrooms or washing facilities. The conditions were very difficult. We used buckets to bring water – whether this water was safe to drink, we didn’t know, but we had no choice and no other resources.” 

In response to this crisis, BINAA for Development, in partnership with UNICEF, launched a project to distribute clean water to 143 camps in Idlib and its countryside, at a rate of 25 liters per person per day – more than 7 million liters / 784,712 cubic meters of clean water per day – through tanks designated for transporting drinking water. 

The mandate of the project is to deliver sufficient quantities of water daily and on an orderly basis. The tanks used to carry the supplies are regularly checked to monitor the water’s safety and sterility through a water monitoring team, formed by BINAA as part of the organization’s cash-for-work program. Currently, more than 110,000 people from 19,642 families benefit from this water. The distribution of safe water is expected to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and improve living conditions in general.  

“When BINAA started managing this camp, they brought water tanks and they also supplied us with clean drinking water. The water is sterile, clean and usable. They also distributed cleaning materials. When BINAA provided these services, our conditions improved significantly, praise to God. People are happy with this aid…the situation has changed a lot for us, as if we are living in our village again,” said Saad Eddin.   

When BINAA started managing this camp, they brought water tanks and they also supplied us with clean drinking water. The water is sterile, clean and usable. They also distributed cleaning materials. People are happy with this aid…the situation has changed a lot for us” - Saad Eddin, an IDP from Hama.  

Describing the significance of this project, Mazen Traboulsi, Director of Water and Sanitation at BINAA for Development, said that “BINAA for Development believes that the access of IDPs to clean, safe and sufficient water is one of their basic rights. The lack of clean water in the camps – which host huge numbers of people – resulted in horrific consequences. Our goal is to provide real and practical solutions, as the lack of clean water and its high price, when available, were a major cause of disease outbreaks and malnutrition among the IDP populations.” 

Binaa team member refilling the water tank

He added: “Our long-term goal is to introduce sustainable solutions that will improve living conditions and preserve the safety and dignity of our people. Some camps will be connected to water networks, to ensure sustainable access to clean water, while other camps will receive water supplies through tankers. We have formed teams to monitor the quality of the water and to ensure it is safe and sufficient. These teams work within our cash-for-work program, which means their members – who are residents of the camps – receive a wage for their efforts, which also provides many IDPs with a much-needed source of income.” 

With the primary goal of improving living conditions within the IDP camps in Northern Syria, BINAA for Development has implemented numerous other projects, including the regular collection and disposal of solid waste, the distribution of hygiene kits, and the rehabilitation of sanitation facilities, as well as raising awareness about the importance of hygiene in the camps. In addition, BINAA is involved in training and deploying rapid response teams to detect malnutrition cases among children and pregnant or lactating women, and refer them to specialists for treatment.