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Summer heat adds to perils facing children of Syria


Providing sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services is crucial

AMMAN, 21 June 2013 – Soaring summer temperatures, overcrowding and worsening hygiene are the latest threats facing some 4 million children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, UNICEF said today.

“Without enough safe water and sanitation, the likelihood that children in Syria and those living as refugees around the region will fall sick with diarrhoea and other diseases is certain to rise,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

In Syria, the availability of safe water is one third what it was before the crisis. Of the more than 4.25 million displaced Syrians, many live in overcrowded shelters with insufficient access to toilets and showers. Sewage systems are damaged or overwhelmed by the increase in displaced populations.

In refugee camps like Domiz in Iraq – expanded to accommodate around 25,000 people but now hosting almost twice that number – conditions are just as severe. And in Jordan’s Za’atari camp, aid agencies are struggling to meet the needs of what is now the world’s second biggest refugee camp, housing at least 120,000 people.

In Lebanon, more than half a million refugees are scattered in host communities and in informal tented settlements, placing increased pressure on existing water and sanitation services. Multiple families often share small apartments or live in makeshift settlements that lack access to safe water, basic toilets and waste collection. Women and children often have to walk long distances to collect water that in many cases may be unfit for drinking. 

As the escalating conflict triggers ever more population movement, UNICEF has accelerated efforts to provide sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, reaching almost 9 million people since the beginning of the year.

In Syria itself, new generators and repaired systems are keeping water networks and purification plants operational even in areas where heavy fighting has occurred.

In Jordan, UNICEF and partners truck in more than 4 million litres of water a day to Za’atari while rehabilitating water infrastructure and networks in nearby towns. Water infrastructure is also being installed in a new refugee camp in Azraq.

In Lebanon, so far this year, UNICEF and partners operating in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector distributed nearly 100,000 hygiene kits, including shampoo, soap and detergent – benefiting more than 430,000 people. 

Funding constraints remain an issue. “Providing water, sanitation and hygiene services to those affected by this crisis is our most costly operation – but one of the least funded,” Calivis said.

UNICEF needs more than $200 million for its water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq until the end of the year. Nearly half way through the year, UNICEF remains $124 million short of this target.

Yesterday on World Refugee Day UNICEF Canada launched a 48 hour emergency appeal to reach the nearly 4 million children living in crisis across the Middle East because of the on-going conflict in Syria. Canadians can make a donation at to support UNICEF’s life-saving work.

Candians can also support UNICEF Canada by raising awareness for the emergency appeal. To share important updates via social media, please join UNICEF Canada on Facebook and Twitter (#childrenofsyria).



UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,