DAMASCUS (Al Jazeera) – More than 12 million people in Syria and Iraq are losing access to water, food and electricity, 13 aid groups warned in a report as they called for urgent action to combat the severe water crisis.
Rising temperatures, record low levels of rainfall, and drought are depriving people across the region of drinking and agricultural water, said the report, published on Monday. Syria is currently facing its worst drought in 70 years.
Compiled by a group of international organizations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, CARE, Action Against Hunger, and Mercy Corps, among others, the report warned higher temperatures caused by climate change increased the risks and severity of droughts in the region.
The changes in the climate also disrupted electricity as dams ran out of water, which in turn impacted the operation of essential infrastructure including health facilities, they said.
“The total collapse of water and food production for millions of Syrians and Iraqis is imminent,” said Carsten Hansen, regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still displaced and many more still fleeing for their lives in Syria, the unfolding water crisis will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe pushing more into displacement,” he added.
CARE’s regional director in the Middle East and North Africa, Nirvana Shawky, said the severity of the situation had been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The situation demands that authorities in the region and donor governments act swiftly to save lives in this latest crisis that comes on top of conflict, COVID-19, and severe economic decline,” said Shawky. “In the longer term, beyond emergency food and water, they need to invest in sustainable solutions to the water crisis.”
Since autumn 2020, unseasonably low levels of rainfall across the eastern Mediterranean basin have contributed to drought conditions in Syria and Iraq, according to a UN report in June.
The water crisis was compounded by progressively decreasing water flows into the Euphrates River – which runs through both countries from Turkey – over months, falling from 500 cubic meters per second in January to 214 cubic meters per second in June 2020, said the UN.