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"This is not a life worth living," said Bilal, a resident of Rural Damascus. "Together with dozens of other families, we're crowded into an unfinished building shell without electricity or water. Even if the shelling around us were to stop, there would still be the heat, the flies buzzing over our heads and the stench of the garbage outside."
Areas plagued by heavy fighting, including Rural Damascus, eastern parts of Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and the governorate of Raqqa, are enduring breakdowns of essential services such as the supply of electricity and water and the collection of garbage."
Many water stations have been damaged and can no longer supply the communities that depend on them," said Jean-Marc Burri, in charge of the ICRC's water and sanitation activities in Syria. "Furthermore, waste management services, including the collection of garbage, have become almost non-existent in some areas where fighting has been taking place, or only continue to be performed through the efforts of the people living there."
"The failure to remove refuse for lengthy periods of time could have a serious impact on the well-being of entire communities," he said. "Piles of garbage are ideal breeding grounds for disease and parasites."
To help ward off any public health catastrophe, the ICRC launched a number of projects aimed at improving overall sanitary conditions. "We're trying to improve, as far as possible, the conditions in which people affected by the fighting have to live," said Mr Burri.
Thanks to the joint efforts of the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, garbage in Aleppo's Jisr Al-Haj area was collected and disposed of over the past couple of weeks. In addition, insecticides were sprayed in Aleppo and Idlib to help control parasites. Furthermore, ICRC engineers worked together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and local water boards to carry out emergency repairs in areas of heavy fighting to ensure the availability of clean potable water.
Since the beginning of August, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC has also:
- provided local water boards in Rural Damascus, Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia, Sweida, al-Hassakeh, Deir Ezzor, Tartous, Homs and Idlib with technical expertise, equipment and supplies, including pumps and generators;
- continued to upgrade water, housing and sanitary facilities at more than 45 public sites in eight governorates where displaced people are living, while completing work at another 14 sites in three governorates.
The ICRC's health department has:
- assessed two hospitals in Hama to which it donated surgical supplies for the full treatment of 100 seriously injured patients;
- provided the Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch in Hama with medical assistance, including chronic disease medication for the treatment of 450 patients;
- supplied the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with medications for 2,500 children.
The ICRC's relief department has:
- supplied food parcels for some 260,000 people in Deir Ezzor, Hama, Aleppo, Rural Damascus, Lattakia, Homs, Idlib and Damascus governorates;
- provided mattresses and blankets for 60,000 people in Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Lattakia, Deir Ezzor and Damascus;
- supplied kitchen sets (cooking pots, plates, cups and cutlery) for more than 30,000 people in Hama, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Lattakia and Damascus;
- supplied hygiene items (shampoos, soaps, washing detergents, female hygiene items, etc.) to some 70,000 people in Hama, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Rural Damascus and Lattakia.